Saturday, January 12, 2013

Chichicastenango Sunday Market

One of the top attractions in Guatemala, according to the guidebooks, is the Sunday Market at Chichicastenango (Chichi). We've been to quite a few weekly markets in our travels so we couldn't pass up Chichi; in fact, we arrived one day early to snag a good hotel room and check out the pre-market action.

Our room #6 at El Arco was maybe the best hotel room in Central America so far: balcony, roomy, tastefully decorated with local textiles and crafts.

Saturday afternoon and evening we checked out the churches, the cemetery, the sacred hill and stone, the comedors, the papas stands; and watched the vendors in the plaza set up very tall stalls, hung with textiles that are sold mostly to tourists. Sun-Ling observed that the many articles for sale are expensive as most are intricate handmade pieces, and there is hardly anything that would "fit" our home or ourselves. That's a common problem with third world markets; that is, the colorful articles look beautiful (often amazing) and are well made, but what do you do with the the jaguar mask, the red and purple hand-woven tablecloth, the local blouse or hat, when you get home?

Sunday morning, we hit the streets of Chichi at 8:00 AM. Most of the action was not buying and selling but porters unloading and hauling, vendors continuing to set up, buses and vans picking up nad dropping off, men and boys crowding the barberias, and shoe shine boys competing for business with ambulatory vendors.

Sun-Ling bought a wool shoulder bag and by 9 we had spotted a few foreign tourists. By 10, many groups of tourists arrived and there was an increase in action all around.

For us, the market was ho-hum. Just another market for tourists. The one thing in Chichi that is unique is the blending of Christian and Mayan religions, but the locals don't seem to be vigorous in preserving that. True, we did see a Sunday morning procession of Mayan elders and Mayan ceremonies at the cemetery, but Santo Tomas church on Epiphany Sunday was 99.9% Catholic. Older guide books say that the front steps and front doors of Santo Tomas are sacred and reserved for elders. Not so any more it seems as locals and tourists led by local guides parade in and out of the front doors in a steady stream, often ignoring the "please no photos" signs inside.

And by noon, we were packed up and on a van to El Quiche.

Chichicastenango, Guatemala, another picturesque village in the mountains.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Setting up starts the night before the Sunday Market.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

The stalls in front of the church. The tallest market stalls I've ever seen.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Stalls fill the plaza.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Barberia.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

We chowed on pupusas the evening before the market.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Hauling turkeys.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Moving chairs.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Our hotel room and balcony at El Arco.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Chichicastenango, Guatemala

The market is lively and crowded after 10 AM when tourists arrive.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Interesting cemetery in Chichi with some graves just a mound of dirt and others tombs that resemble Mayan pyramids.
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

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