Don Lipe “The Butcher”

Depending on how accustomed you are to life in La Antigua, you may have stopped buying meat from a particular distributor or specialty shop and may have begun to visit the municipal market and buy from the butchers’ stalls there. For the families who’ve lived in the center of town (and some of them still do), it’s not necessary to go all the way to the mercado, because – for what seems like forever – Don Lipe’s butcher shop has been located just a block from Parque Central.

Felipe de Jesús Grave – better known as Don Lipe – is a singular character. He never misses an opportunity to talk and joke with those who pass by his shop, which is located directly opposite the main entrance of the Cooperación Española. Qué Pasa spoke with him there for a few minutes.

Why did you decide to become a butcher?
When I was 14, my attention was caught by the world of buying and selling, the world of commerce. I liked seeing people buying as well as everything that had to do with the different kinds and cuts of meat.

How much did meat cost back then?
When I started, a pound of beef cost twenty cents of a quetzal (Q0.20) and then, because of the price, people bought more meat than they buy today. Just imagine: I used to sell 600 pounds of meat per month, and now it’s maybe 200 pounds.

How can a person know which cuts of meat are best?
Usually the meat from bull calves is good, but the meat from female calves is a little bit tougher. After that, it’s all about what dishes you’re going to prepare, in order to choose which cuts will be the best.
This is the last remaining butcher shop that can be found in La Antigua’s historic downtown area.

Why did you decide to have your shop here and not in the market?
Here there’s no competition, but in the mercado there are so many butchers that it becomes complicated. Here I’m near many houses, and my customers even call and ask me to have it delivered by the “kid” [pointing to the person who has been his assistant and colleague for almost 15 years].

How many years have you been located here?
I’ve been in this location for 36 years, but I’ve been a butcher for 52 years.
It’s at this point that Don Lipe turns and says to his assistant: “Tell ’em what you always say when I tell people how long I’ve been a butcher.”

The assistant laughingly replies, “I tell Don Lipe that, because he’s been doing this for so long, he’s become one of La Antigua’s monuments. I think the Council [the National Council for the Protection of La Antigua] should protect him, too [like it does with historic monuments].” Don Lipe – with his characteristic patience – laughs.

Then, a little bit excited, he says, “You know something? This week several people from the media have stopped by to interview me. Just look at how things are going!”
Then it’s time to take a photo for this article, and Don Lipe decides to tidy up the meat (because for him it’s obvious that the photo can only be taken with him among hanging cuts of meat while he uses one of his huge knives to clean up another piece). In a cheery mood, he has a request when it’s time to take the photo: “Make me look nice and handsome.”

Aside from the jokes, his dedication to serving the many Antigüeños and curious tourists who’ve found his shop is obvious: they keep coming back for the great cuts of meat… and some pleasant conversation.

Written by & photos by: Sofía Letona

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