Blanca's Story, one of Panza Verde's oldest employee.
Blanca Estela Pérez, whom we affectionately call Doña Blanqui, is one of the most special experiences and people you will meet during your stay at Panza Verde. She greets our guests every morning with a smile, whilst showing off her skills - balancing things on her head - she proudly treats her guests like family a real treasure to meet. For she truly is someone we all love and respect, and she wins the hearts of all our guests who get a chance to meet her. She has worked at Mesón Panza Verde since 1989, making her the employee with the second longest trajectory here. While her life has been full of challenges, Blanqui has successfully overcome each of them and has become an invaluable and beloved member of the Panza Verde family.
Blanca was born in Guatemala City in Hospital Hermano Pedro on August 18, 1943. She is the oldest of four siblings, and as such began work at an early age. She grew up in zone 11 in a rented house made of planks of wood. At ten, she moved to San Raymundo, Guatemala, and began living with her grandfather instead of her mother. Her grandfather had a job in the fields transporting wood, water, and carrying corn. It was there that Blanca spent the remaining of her younger childhood.
When Blanca was ten years old, she began her first paid job working in the home of a policeman as a childminder and cook. She was paid Q5 for 15 days’ work. Two weeks later, Don Chan, the mayor of San Raymundo, got her another job in zone 11 in Guatemala City. He paid the Q0.45 she needed for transportation into the city so that she could begin her new job and her new life. She remained at that job for three years. When Blanca was between fifteen and sixteen years old, her mother came looking for her, found her, and took her to her godmother, who owned a shoe shop and grocery store. She recalls that working at the store was very demanding, they made two hundred coconut ice creams every week and unfortunately, Blanqui lost her finger in an accident with a meat grinder shortly after beginning her work there.
However, Blanqui fell in love during that time working in the store, and soon had a child at the age of sixteen. To support her family, she stopped working at her godmother’s store and began selling atol, chuchitos, tamales, and selling tortillas. After having their third child, he went to Los Angeles in California leaving her alone to care for the children. By the time she was twenty-three, in 1980 Blanqui started working in Guatemala City, at a restaurant near what is now today the United States embassy. It was here that she met her current husband, they later had a son. In 1982, she and her husband moved to San Lucas, getting closer to where she would later work for many years.
In 1989, Blanqui began working in Antigua in the laundry room at Mesón Panza Verde, employed by the original German owners. When Laurel Jacobson and Bruce McCowen bought Mesón Panza Verde in 1992, they decided it should remain a Boutique Hotel and Restaurant and to keep Blanqui working but as a maid in the hotel. They then began the workings of remodeling and making Mesón Panza Verde what it is today. She still remembers fondly, how Laurel and her daughters would ride their horses into the hotel during those early years making the place feel alive.
Blanquita was promoted to breakfast hostess in 2005, which continues to be her current position to this day. Blanqui is Mesón Panza Verde’s second oldest employee and her charisma has earned her the affection of many people, both staff and guests. She also has many unique talents that make her stand out in the eyes of everyone who meets her - including carrying objects on her head gracefully. Doña Blanqui is also known and beloved for the way she bids goodbye to guests on their last morning at the hotel, sending them on their way with blessings and best wishes.
Mesón Panza Verde is fortunate to have a woman like Doña Blanqui on staff. Despite the challenges she has faced, she has always come out triumphant. Through her work at Panza Verde, she has made it into books, newspapers, and multiple videos. Doña Blanqui is an essential and beloved part of our family and we hope she will continue to work with us for many more years!