The Chichicastenango Cha Cha

Chichicastenango (Chichi) has been dubbed Guatemala’s Mecca del Turismo. It’s a spectacular and vast open air market that happens twice a week in this central highlands town. Not a whole lot of tourists on our trip, but tons of traders and Mayan weavers from all over the region.

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Beautiful fruits and vegetables at every turn. Mind you though that tomorrow we’ll be visiting the Solola market in the hills above lake Atitlan. That is a totally indigenous market for the locals and an entirely different ambiance. Check the next blog post.

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The weavings and needlework are very beautiful and range from intricate hand-done pieces that can cost $600 plus to still beautiful, simpler pieces at much lower cost.

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Everyone has something interesting.

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Fresh and enticing.

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Showing off skills passed from generation to generation.

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Tiny dried fish. Our guide says the highlanders use them as flavoring and ingredients for cooking, but the lowlanders use them for fertilizer. Interesting.

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Chichi is a center of culture and religion as well. We visited the two churches in the town. Unfortunately no photos allowed inside. Although catholic in appearance, the Mayans worshiping there make no bones about practicing their own take on religion there. Remember, the Spanish threatened to kill them if they did not accept the trinity and Catholicism. So the thinking Maya decided they would look as though they were worshiping the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but actually were praying to their own trinity; corn, beans and squash. The rituals and alters inside were quite amazing to us. For example, crawling back and forth on bare knees to the alter, sometimes until bleeding.

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At lunch in a local hotel we were entertained by some local Mayan children; costumes and dances. It’s how some families make their living. We tip generously as they did a terrific job. It’s hard to make a living in these parts. The oldest performer here was 18 and already married. The 15 year old girl was about to be taken as a wife shortly.

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Across the road we see an incredibly colorful sight we don’t recognize. It turns out to be a Mayan cemetery. A public burial area bursting with tradition.

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Family crypts and mausoleums. We see several ceremonies to the dead (usually asking for their help), held by shamen, placing amulets, food and candles, and smoking things that looked like loose cigars.

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It appears the dead “live” better than the living. A neighborhood just across from the cemetery that reminded us very much of the favellas in Rio.

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The sense of color and design is a wonder.

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The setting is beautiful (until the local government decides the body of a loved one can’t be there anymore and you have to pay to get it moved to another cemetery…or the body is just dumped in the ravine adjacent.

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A refreshing water fall on our way back to the Porta Hotel del Lago in Pana Jachel by lake Atitlan. Tomorrow the Sololá market.

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One Response to The Chichicastenango Cha Cha

  1. rhoda says:

    as ever, informative & fab photos!

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