We woke up at 6 a.m., showered and were ready for breakfast by 7. We had tostada and jelly, banana bread, and Abuelo's fresh orange juice. Today was market day in Chichicastenango, and the van to take us there arrived at 8:05. A Canadian family shared the van with us. On our way out of town we stopped at the San Jorge overlook. We hopped out of the van and got some photos of the lake in the morning light. What a big change from yesterday; today locals had set up tables of souvenirs which they were selling to tourists. The place where we had eaten our picnic lunch yesterday was now crowded with people and wares.
It took about an hour to get to Chichicastenango, or "Chichi" as it is known. The van dropped us off in front of the Hotel Santo Tomas. We went inside to use the restroom (which cost us 5Q apiece). We had stayed at this hotel in 2004, and it was quite lovely and high-end. We wandered through their lovely courtyard which had some parrots and macaws stationed around a central fountain. We looked at the intricate wood carvings hung on the walls.
We stepped outside and wandered through the market. The majority of sellers catered to tourists, and we saw all sorts of souvenirs for sale: textiles, pocketbooks, gourds, embroidered huipil blouses, Gallo beer T-shirts, knitted wooly hats, jewelry, and the wooden masks for which Chichi is famous. But we also saw a more local side to the market where fruits, vegetables, etc. were bought and sold by locals in traditional Mayan dress. We went into a building and climbed up to a second story balcony to overlook the vegetable market. It was teeming with people and reminded me of a beehive. Tables overflowed with bright red tomatoes and mountains of yellow bananas. We saw locals selling candles, textiles for skirts and huipiles, brightly colored thread, and natural copal and pine resin incense. Women cooked food in large pots. They fried chicken in large pans over a 55-gallon oil drum full of red hot charcoal.Locals sat at counters and enjoyed a fresh-cooked meal.
We went into the Calvary church, which is a church more devoted to Mayan traditions. We went into the dark little rooms which flanked the altar. Candles were flickering so much that it gave things a bit of a strobe effect, and local men talked in hushed tones.
Then we crossed the market and climbed the steps to Santo Tomas church, a more traditional Catholic church where we had experienced Palm Sunday Mass in 2004. Flower sellers sat on the steps. We walked up the stairs and entered the white building. The center aisle of the church was punctuated with flat stone slabs on which people lit candles and arranged flower petals as offerings. The paintings around the church were black from years of soot.
It was disappointing that a lot of the tourists were dressed inappropriately inside the church (in the Mayan culture, adults should not show bare legs or bare shoulders). We always try to dress appropriately with the proper respect.
After sitting in a pew for a while and just absorbing the atmosphere, we headed outside to the grounds of the church. I bought a Mayan calendar from one of the sellers. We ran into the Canadian couple with the Vietnamese toddler from our lake tour. We talked to them for a few minutes
Next we went to Moreria Santo Tomas. The mask shop had changed a bit in the past 6 years. The shop had newly made brightly colored wooden masks displayed next to older more dingy ones. (Last time the more antique ones were locked away in dark back rooms which they only showed us when it became clear that we were interested in a more authentic mask). We walked through some of the other rooms and saw a model of voladores (Mayan men who would climb a large pole and then hang upside down from strings attached to their ankles. They rotate around the pole, making 13 rotations until they reach the ground. (4 men x 13 revolutions = 52, the number of weeks in a year). There was also a metal cage to affix fireworks to during fiestas. A person wears this cage on their back. There is cloth to try to protect the wearer's head. There is a bull mask on the front. The wearer runs through the crowd with lit fireworks on his back, and they shoot off unexpectedly. It sounds a little dangerous for our liking,
We went into a room which was piled high with elaborate costumes (beads and feathers) which they rent out to different organizations which want to perform dances. We sat outside in a small courtyard and watched a dance performance depicting a bull fight. Bullfighting was brought to Guatemala by the Spaniards. Marimba music by Los Mashitos accompanied the dance. Several kids were dressed up as Spaniards, and smaller boy was dressed as a bull. In a subversive turn of events, the bull kills the Spaniard rather than the other way around. It is easy to see how this dance would have been a crowd-pleaser since the Mayans were so harshly subjugated by the Spanish.
Then we walked to another mask museum. They had a shrine set up with a life-sized Maximon statue, as well as a statue of the Virgin Mary. As we started on the trail up the mountain toward the Pascual Abaj Idol, we passed a shaman doing a ceremony with the 20 stones that represent the Mayan calendar. He splashed aguardiente on a small fire. We hiked up the well-maintained trail and let a large group of tourism students pass us. They were very friendly to us, and were all wearing matching polo shirts and jeans. They zigged and zagged up the switchbacks.
We could see a picturesque cemetery in the distance. I really think that the above ground cemeteries painted as they are in pastel colors, are quite beautiful. We climbed to the top of the hill through pine trees. When we got to the top, the hot still air was displaced by a strong breeze. It was so dramatic that it seemed supernatural. Male and female Mayan shamans were performing rituals around the idol. The idol itself was part of a larger statue that was repurposed after an earthquake in 1976 to help rebuild the church. Candles were laid on their sides in circular starburst patterns and were burning, and the Mayan priests doused the idol with cane sugar alcohol and soda. Coffee cans were being used as incense burners with holes punched into the sides. We didn't take any photos in order to be respectful of their culture and beliefs.
We walked back to the market square and we went to the Los Cofrades Restaurant for lunch. The activities had taken a bit longer than we had expected, and we were short on time by the time we got to lunch. Craig and Mukul had Quetzaltenango beer and I had lemonade. It was refreshing after the hike up to the idol and back. My spaghetti bolognaise came quickly as did Mukul and Humberto's meals. Craig's meal took longer and he pretty much needed to eat and run. He had gotten the plato ranchero (a quarter smoked grilled chicken, rice, guacamole, potatoes, fried plantains, etc.) It was a very nice spread but we were due back at the van in literally minutes so he really had to scarf it all down. We made it back to the car at 2 o'clock just as it started to rain. The Canadian family had been pickpocketed out of $500, so they were in a pretty lousy mood on the rainy drive back to Pana.
We got home at 3:15. Eddy came out to greet us. "Craig!" he shouted. He then resumed nursing and fell asleep. We played with Aracely and Yoselin in the girls' room. Eddy didn't sleep long and soon joined us. Eddy rode his big wheel tricycle in circles through the house. Vanesa had done some wood carving at school and she painted it at home. Paola was painting her papier machete guitar for school with poster paints. We sat at the dining room table with the girls. I let Aracely use my good camera under my supervision. She took a series of photos that ended up being a study in glassware. She had photos of jelly jar juice glasses and a glass pitcher. Even when she took photos of Mukul or Craig, the photo was focused on a juice glass or pitcher in the foreground.
It was still raining when it was time to go to church, so we took 2 tuk-tuks. The drivers pulled plastic curtains over the side to keep us dry. I rode with Paulina, Paola, Aracely, and Eddy. We had to return back home because they had forgotten the cell phone. We met the others in front of church (Iglesia San Francisco) and all walked in together. I sat with Vanesa, Aracely, and Yoselin, and everyone else was in the pew behind us. Aracely fell asleep on my lap. They had a new priest since we had been here last, and they no longer played the processional hymn that I used to like so much. The priest was very sociable and was doing little shout-outs to various parishioners during the course of the Mass.
After church we walked down the cobblestone streets in search of a pizza place. The family's usual place wasn't open, so we opted for Ricassoli Pizza Steak House, where Mukul generously treated us all to dinner. We sat at a long table but the girls split up into booths and were really interested in the TV (theirs was still broken). We ordered 3 mixto pizzas and one plain cheese. Craig, Mukul, and Humberto had a Gallo beer. Paulina and I got lemonades which came in gigantic heavy glasses. Eddy blocked his ears when the bartender used the blender, which is exactly what he does at home when Paulina needs to use the blender. We were all ravenous. Usually the entire family makes due with 2 pizzas, but Mukul insisted that everybody eat their fill. As slices would dwindle, he would add another pizza to the order. The girls were engrossed in what looked like a Mexican version of Survivor on the TV. We could hear a cover band from one if the bars down the street. Songs included You Can't Always Get What You Want, Like a Rolling Stone, etc. Humberto gave a slice of pizza to a friendly old man selling peanuts in the restaurant. Thew man came over and took a seat and ate with us, which was quite nice.
On the way home Paulina and Paola sneakily slipped away to buy us some Gatorade. They always take such good care of us! We got home at 9:30 and went to bed straightaway. Tomorrow would be a school day.
Chichicastenango vegetable market
(16 second video)
Moreria Santo Tomas - Taurito dance
( 1 minute 37 second video)
Rock a Bye Baby
( 1 minute 37 second video)