QuetzalBud's Big Blue
Guatemalans love the quetzal, their national bird. It’s on their stamps. They named their currency after it. What’s more, they even tattoo it on interesting body parts (do a Google search: Guatemala quetzal tattoo).
I spotted 104 quetzals on BB’s selection of classical era Guatemalan stamps. Maybe there are more. It’s quetzalmania!
On my only visit to Guatemala I looked for quetzals. I found them in my billfold and on the tattooed backs of chicken bus riders, but not in the air or perched on trees; none were seen in the cloudy mountain forests, either. I did see whole mountainsides covered by canopies under which leathery ferns are grown for export as bouquet foliage to Europe and North America. Foreign owned coffee plantations proliferate. But not quetzals. Their habitat is shrinking and they don’t reproduce in captivity. The World Wildlife Fund says they’re endangered.
‘Quetzal’ derives from an ancient Mayan term for tail feather or, more generally, for precious and beautiful. I hope Guatemalan efforts toward preserving precious and beautiful quetzals succeed.
Beyond ornithology, Guatemala specializes in overprinted stamps. BB has spaces for 96 of them.
When riffling through feeder albums, I look for early star duplex cancels and other fancies.
Census: 291 in BB spaces, 16 tip-ins, 65 on supplement pages.
In 1879, the iconic "Quetzal" design was first issued.
Between 1898-1920, Guatemala was under the dictatorship of Manual Estrada Cabrera, boosted by the support of the United Fruit Company. In 1901, the Guatemalan government hired the United Fruit Company to manage the country's postal service.
Bananas were the primary export of the United Fruit Company, today morphed into Chiquita Brands International. It's chief rival was the Standard Fruit Company, now Dole Foods.
As a result of the heavy handed involvement of these companies in central american governments, the American author O. Henry coined the pejorative term "Banana Republic".
Guatemala Post and BB Checklist