Phillip Martin Art

The Americas Collection

The Man with the Feathers

Long before I toured Africa, Asia and Europe, I wanted to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal. I’m quite sure the experience would have been extremely different if that had happened at that time. Now G\uatemala is so very well set up for tourism. Back then, there was hardly a road into the rain forest.

This guide, who also wouldn’t have been there in his feathered glory, tourists used to climb the main pyramids in the plaza area. However, those pyramids are steep, tall and slippery, causing some tourists to fall to their deaths. Climbing on them is no longer permitted. It is probably just as well for me.

The grounds around Tikal are huge. There is more to explore than just the main plaza area. And, when you walked the paths into the rainforest, you are free to climb whatever you discover. Of course, I had to climb while I was there. Yes, it was a steep climb. And, yes, I slipped. So, like I said, it was probably best that I never had the chance to fall from the main pyramids. Even with my little bit of climbing, my legs hurt for three days. No, I’m not meant to climb every mountain or Mayan pyramid.

I revisited Tikal a year later in search of the guide. I had one eye admiring history while the other was on the lookout for a man wearing a crazy hat stuffed full of multi-colored feathers. I took in all the history. Alas, the tour guide was a no show.

Very fortunately for me, one guide spoke excellent English. I asked if he knew all the guides at Tikal because I wanted to deliver a portrait. He said he would look at my portrait, but he made no promises. A smile crossed his face when I pulled out my work. Everyone knew Santiago. He gave French tours and was called, “the man with the feathers”. The English speaking guide showed the portrait to six friends standing nearby. There was a lot of rapid conversation, but none of it was in English. The only word I understood was “feo”. That means “ugly”. One of the other men said that Santiago was an ugly man, but I did a wonderful job to make him look good. I left the portrait hoping it would eventually get to Santiago.

Life sometime gives me surprises that I just never could imagine. I love it when it happens, but I never dream big enough for some of the things that come my way. After my time in Tikal, Guatemala, I went to Honduras for nine days. Cloudy weather, my mural scheduling and life just got in the way. I didn’t make it to the archaeological site outside of town until my last day in Honduras. It was the last day as a tourist on this extended trip. And, I wasn’t visiting the town of Copán Ruinas without a trip to their archaeological treasure.

I entered the gate to Copán and headed to the ticket office. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a strange little man with some feathered headgear! Santiago! Yep, my little tour guide from northern Guatemala was in Honduras with a herd of fourteen French-speakers. I approached him, called him by name, and asked if he spoke English. He said if I wanted to talk in English, I needed to talk to the woman to my right.

I smiled and said I had to talk to him. I didn’t communicate well in Spanish. I don’t think he understood me. However, when I pulled out one of my drawings, he knew exactly who I was. AND, HE HAD MY PORTRAIT OF HIM IN HIS VAN! So, I got a photo of him holding my drawing of him. I have never been good in math. I accept the fact that I’m an artist and I’m happy with that. But, I would love to know the odds that I would come face to face with Santiago in Honduras. I’m guessing those odds are pretty slim.  I call it a traveling miracle.

Continue on to Americas Image 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 or back to the Portraits Home Page.