Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Santo Tomas Church

Deborah at the park fountain, we found it!

I am thinking just about anyone who has been to Guatemala, has been to Chichi. It is a tourist destination, mostly for its famous market. Handicrafts galore, Chichi has been the center of handicrafts for all of Guatemala. I admit to buying a great deal from this colorful market, every Thursday and Sunday.  There is something more to this town of 80,000.  It has become a central market for all of the state of Quiche, with market stalls surrounding the central park every day of the week. I can remember in the 80's coming there on off tourist market days with a view of all the town square, a clear view off both churches and this royal fountain in the center. Today, one must make your way through plastic covered rows of tables, vendors selling everything imaginable, to discover the fountain in the center.

My friend Deborah and I decided to spend some time in Chichi on a non market day. We were surprised what we found.  We went to the Mayan Lodge, a small wonderful hotel I used to go to as a getaway back in the 80's.  A bargain at $30 for two, fireplaces, right in the center of the market, and parking included!

Mayan Lodge

  The street on a normal day
The owner of the hotel grew up in this home, she told us the entire story of how it went from home and store front to hotel.  Her father was the first to convert the rooms for guest, he started a restaurant where they once had a handicraft store. Sitting on the town square, colonial era construction, it is perfect.

On a market day one never gets to see some buildings, just too much stuff.  In 35 years, I have never noticed this building and it sits right across from a place I buy from all the time.

Can't see the forest for the trees, same street, market day.
 Our next big discovery was what the "pit" looks like, in fact it is around a building which is the town theater.  It is filled with used textiles, piled as high as the walls are.  Tight and cramped, hard to maneuver about, and hard bargaining. 
empty and wet with rain
entrance to the area on market day

The smaller church was open, what a treat!


This church appears a bit older than the larger, Santo Tomas church.  Lovely carvings, wooden floors, all stained by the constant burning of candles and incense.  

Notice the concrete slabs?  Mayan rituals are preformed, circling different colors of candles and piles of incense. All are set ablaze, as prayers are made. Very impressive if you have ever seen how fast an entire candle burns when set on its side. The Catholic and Mayan practices are mixed.
Here you see the traditional Catholic candle lighting under a carving of Jesus.

 Below is an example of the Mayan ritual fire.