Although we wanted to meet Jairo David Estrada Barrios, the Ambassador of Guatemala to Azerbaijan and Türkiye, residing in Ankara, for a long time, our meeting took place a few days before the end of the ambassador’s term of office. The main purpose of our meeting with non-resident ambassadors is usually to promote relations between their country and Azerbaijan. This time, in addition to our goal, we were also interested in learning information about this ancient state located in Central America as the heart of the Mayan civilization and the special task given by the founding leader of Türkiye, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, to study this civilization. We present the interview:

– How do you estimate Guatemala-Azerbaijan relations?

– Guatemala and Azerbaijan have maintained diplomatic relations since November 1, 1994, which have flourished in all forms of diplomacy, especially in the multilateral scenario where the votes for the candidacies were negotiated, and I know that they will continue to strengthen through defining opportunities of benefit to both countries.

As Azerbaijan is already informed, my tenure as a side-accredited ambassador will end on February 29, 2024, and during the 4 years that I have exercised my role, it is important to remember that in June 2021, I had the honor of presenting my credentials to Mr. President, Ilham Aliyev during this occasion, which reaffirmed the solid relations between our countries. In addition to the visits to Agdam, Nakhchivan, and Shusha, where we all witnessed the progress of the reconstruction of the sites and the development that is being promoted, my congratulations to the country for this comprehensive vision.

– Which areas can be prioritized for the development of relations between the two countries?

– The cultural and academic fields can be developed even further, considering that both countries have a surprising cultural wealth, in addition to the development that has taken place in the fields of study. The Azerbaijani population would certainly be interested in learning more about the history of a country on another continent, such as Guatemala, and its ancient history, which was home to one of the world’s great civilizations, the Maya.

– Mr. Ambassador, in your statement to the Turkish press, “Our cultures are very similar. Ataturk sent a diplomat to Mexico during his time and asked for the ties with the Mayan civilization that lived in Guatemala to be investigated. You can find the report on the ties between Mayans and Turks in the National Archives,” you said. In your opinion, what was it about the Mayans that attracted Atatürk’s attention?

– Atatürk’s vision was very broad, and this led him to be interested in learning more about the Mayan civilization, with Guatemala being the heart of it. We know that in the 1930s, at the request of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Türkiye received some reports about the Mayans from his delegate in Mexico, which underlined the interest of the father of the Turks in knowing more about the impressive Mayan civilization, which was located in what are now 5 countries, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and El Salvador, covering more than 400,000 km2. The North American archaeologist considered them “the most brilliant people on the planet” after studying their material achievements and intellectual progress. The Mayans were great astronomers, their buildings, pyramids, and observatories were built with this science in mind, with one of their most outstanding achievements being the positional numeration and the number zero. The development of the Mayan civilization attracts the attention of personalities from all over the world who have studied it and highlighted its contribution.

– What information can you give our readers about the Mayan calendar? Is the Mayan calendar currently active in Guatemala?

– The Mayans observed the movement of the Sun and Moon in conjunction with the planet Venus and recorded the aspects that marked the days, weeks, months, and years, highlighting three calendars, Haab, Tzolkin, and Long Count. In Guatemala, Mayan traditions are preserved and respected, and some communities perform ceremonies based on the Mayan calendar. The development of this civilization is impressive, and for those with a passion for history and culture, Guatemala is certainly one of the countries to visit.

– What can you say about cultural relationships between two countries?

– The cultural relations between Guatemala and Azerbaijan offer an opportunity for further links; both countries have World Heritage Sites, which allow us to learn more about each other’s history. The translation of books, the reproduction of films, and photographic exhibitions, among others, are activities that, through diplomacy, will facilitate cultural knowledge. Every vestige of the past anywhere in the world has an amazing history, and Guatemala and Azerbaijan are no exception.

– What products does Azerbaijan mainly buy from Guatemala?

– In 2023, there wasn’t any direct trade balance between both countries; however, it does not mean that Guatemalan products are not sold in Azerbaijan, such as coffee, which can be easily found in international chains that sell the product or in supermarkets, being purchased through a third country, this may also be the case with Guatemalan cardamom.

– Is it expected to open direct flights between the two countries?

– To have a direct air connection between both countries, we must work in parallel on political-diplomatic issues, in addition to tourism, so that everyone interested in traveling has the knowledge and facilities to enjoy their trip. Due to the fact that Guatemala works hard through its Guatemalan Tourism Institute, awakening people’s interest so that there is demand for travel.

– You know that Azerbaijan liberated Karabakh in 2020 after nearly 30 years of occupation. Currently, extensive construction and restoration work is underway in that region. Companies from different countries participate in the process. Can Guatemala be involved in the process in some way? By the way, while you visited Azerbaijan, you said that Guatemala is ready to provide support to Azerbaijan in the field of demining.

– In fact, I have been able to appreciate the development that Azerbaijan promotes in the territories. İt is evident and surprising, and I trust that soon that infrastructure will benefit more people. Guatemala has always been a country that is willing to cooperate and to participate, and for this reason, it is important to know the demand for assistance that is required, and if this is the case, it would be evaluated in which areas the country could do this, including military aspects, because my country is a promoter of peace and development in other states, as recorded in peace operations.

– You have visited Karabakh twice. It would be interesting to know your impressions about the region.

– My impressions focus on what I have already shared, the amazement at the comprehensive vision that Azerbaijan is seeking in these areas to ensure the well-being of its people.

– Can your country open an embassy in Azerbaijan in the near future?

– We have worked hard to publicize the opportunities available in each country. In this development, each country evaluates its national priorities, in which financial aspects can play a decisive role. I am confident that in the future both countries will be able to open embassies on a reciprocal basis, as today Guatemala covers Azerbaijan from Türkiye and Azerbaijan from Mexico.

– What high-level visits are expected in the near future?

– Last year, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs participated in the summit of non-aligned countries in Baku, which has been a multilateral scene that has allowed greater relations between our countries until today.

– You have come to Azerbaijan many times. You probably have certain impressions about our country…