Guatemala Time here is less

Guatemala

Time here is less precise. At home, if I say I'll arrive around 8:00, I mean anywhere from 7:45 to 8:15. Here we'd have more latitude. 8:00, mas o menos, means "between 8:15 and 10:30." I wonder if this comes from different metaphors for how the world works. In spite of the fact that Einstein debunked Newton's view that the universe is a giant mechanical clock, Americans tend to think in terms of on/off, cause/effect, gears meshing, and everything running "like a Swiss watch." I sense that Guatemalans are somewhat pre-Newtonian, seeing things in spiritual terms. Things are more loosely coupled, bound together with magic and beliefs instead of drive shafts and fan belts.

Before the Spaniards arrived, the Mayans had come up with a calendar that was only off by 30 seconds everything 30,000 years, mas o menos, but the timing was left to the priesthood. Priests were astronomers; astronomers were priests. They built Tikal to calculate and celebrate equinoxes, solstices, and eclipses. On one wall in the departure area of the Guatemala City Aeropuerto hang clocks displaying the time in California, New York, Paris, etc. The hours are of course all different. Here, so are the minutes. It's 9:32 and 11:03 and 6:15..


Posted by Jay Cross at March 13, 2002 08:10 PM | TrackBack
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