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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Panimache, Guatemala

(Pronounced Pah-nee-mah-CHAY, Gwah-tay-MAH-lah)

Where the Shoe Shine Boys Live

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

The Shoe Shine Boys of Pana

In Panajachel, Guatemala, as well in Antigua, the old capital city of Guatemala, shoe shine boys come out of the surrounding towns to shine your shoes and make some money for their school supplies. It’s a noble act for these kids and their dedication to this task keeps them out of trouble.

We see the same young boys, some as young as 7 years old, pass through Panajachel week after week. We buy them cokes (their favorite treat) or food in exchange for speaking with us about their lives and telling us their stories.

It seems that most of the boys come in from a town called Panimache.

But where is that?

None of us can locate it on our Smart Phones or on computer maps.

One of the many Shoe Shine Boys working in Panajachel, Guatemala - notice his shine box and his fingers blackened from shoe polish

Their town is located “mas aribba” meaning that it’s up the hill as they point in the general direction. “A 10 Quetzals bus fare ($1.32USD), about one hour away."


Juan working in Panajachel

These kids are 7-11 years old and they travel on their own in order to work here to make some money for themselves. With a shoe shine costing 3Q’s they have to have seven jobs just to break even on their round trip fare.

Hands are moving quick as a flash to get that shine up!

Billy has given many of our website tee shirts away to shoe shine boys, who are always appreciative for the new clothes. This young boy is proudly wearing his today.

The climb up out of the Lake Atitlan area.

As I told them that I cannot find their town on the map, they offered to take me there, provided I pay for their passage. So I hired a private van to haul the gang up for a visit.

Not knowing much about the town, this should be an adventure into the mountainous backlands of Guatemala.

Rising in elevation with the lake and San Pedro Volcano in the distance

I agreed with the shoe shine boys to meet me at Cafe Kitsch at 10:00 AM and we would leave from there. Driver and van were both ready… but the kids were a no show! They never made it.


I decided to go ahead anyway by myself with my driver.

Leveling off at about 8000 feet, this is farming country

Winding our way up out of the Lake Atitlan area, the road was paved and since it is the rainy season the mountains were a lush green. As we climbed in elevation we passed large farms or fincas as they are known here, and finally arrived in Panimache about 50 minutes later.

My private driver, Juan Gomez, and comfy van... Notice he is on the phone

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was up for it!

Entering Panimache

Continuing further up this road will lead you to the Pan American Highway.

It's Market Day so cars parked along this patched road, the only paved one in the town.

This native Maya woman wears a typical woven cloth on her head. She will use that cloth for everything - as a basket for goods she purchases, as a sun cloth to keep the heat off her head, as a base for balancing the wood she carries on her head, or to wrap up a child and carry her on her back.

She may already be carrying a child on her back presently as you can see the knot of cloth across her chest.

Sunday is Market Day

Market Day in Panimache is sparse, compared to the one in Panajachel. But similar things are sold: Fresh chamomile, vegetables, chilis, and limes.

Piles of clothes donated from "up North" are for sale here

Vendors purchase bags of used clothing from the U.S. and Canada and resell them here in Guatemala. For those who want the western world look instead of the native Maya garb, this is an affordable alternative.

Sugar, pasta, Corn Flakes and more are sold here

This man has his own table and besides the above listed items, he sells fresh eggs, cooking oil, catsup, soap and packaged cookies.

The Guatemalans like strong colors

Maya women are known for their spectacular weavings and embroideries. Rarely is there a market that doesn't offer skeins of brightly colored threads and yarn for this ubiquitous pastime.

A typical home in Panimache

One of the Shoe Shine Boys named Juan spotted me upon arriving in town and offered to be my guide. I said "Sure!" and on into town we went.

This is a typical Panimache home with a corrugated tin roof and the beginning of a milpa growing in the front yard. A milpa is a crop-growing system used throughout MesoAmerica, producing the triple crop of corn, beans and squash.

Along the path we spotted this young brother and sister

Once off the singular paved road, you will only find dirt paths like this one. I really don't know if this town has a sewer system or running water.

Notice the young Maya girl wearing traditional dress.

Cotton candy treat!

My guide Juan told me that another shoe shine boy lives here at this house.

Mama assured me that her son went to Panajachel to work that morning... hmmmm perhaps these guys took the day off to play soccer, because they did not come to Pana, I can tell you!

Simple living

Kids gathered around and I bought them all cotton candy from this vendor.

Another dirt road

A Maya woman wears the typical woven cloth on top of her head, an embroidered blouse called a huipile, and a woven and embroidered wrap-around skirt. Boys and men tend to wear western clothing.


Corn, the beginning of another milpa, is growing on both sides of the road.

Panimache is in a beautiful mountain setting and everyone was friendly and open to me.

A simple tienda in this simple town

Once again you see the women and girls wearing the traditional Maya dress - colorful embroideries and woven cloth. The young man on the right is in western jeans and a tee shirt.

An anciana, an older Maya woman

This Maya woman, who happens to be Juan's Grandmother, met my eyes as I walked through town. I am sure she has stories to tell if I could even speak with her. Most likely she only speaks Kaqchikel, or one of the other native Maya tongues. Spanish is the Maya's second language.

Notice the complicated embroidered huipile she wears. Typically, these take over a month to produce and due to the amount of thread used, they are quite heavy and a little stiff.

Excellent workmanship.

Juan and his friend

Juan, pictured on the right, took me to his friend's tienda where I bought them water.

Handsome young kids. What do their lives hold in store for them?

All in a tuk tuk

It's time to head back to my ride, but first we jump into a tuk tuk, the affordable transport all throughout Guatemala.

Looking out the side of the tuk tuk

It's been a pleasant morning running about Panimache, enjoying the vistas and the local people.

Notice the cobblestone street. Riding in a tuk tuk along a cobblestone road can really rattle your teeth!

The local church

There are Churches everywhere in Guatemala, so I had to peak inside.

The inside scoop

As is the tradition in many churches, the inside decorations of beautiful cloth change depending on the season and holy day that is being celebrated. This church was big enough to have seating for the whole town.

Heading back

Here I am in the comfy van taking the road back to Panajachel, a small town of about 15,000 people. Seems like a big city compared to Panimache!

For more stories about Guatemala, click here

To learn more about Guatemala as a retirement destination, click here

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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