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  Volunteer Activities ] Free Activities ] Paid Activities ]  
  Weaving Classes ] Visiting Santiago Atitlán ] [ Visiting Chichicastenango ]  
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  You will not want to leave Guatemala without visiting Chichicastenango. On Thursdays and Sundays in the square in front of the church of Santo Tomás, Chichicastenango has the most incredible Indian market you may ever encounter. If you are lucky you can make it from San Pedro in an hour, but often you are not lucky with the buses (you have to change in Los Encuentros) so it is better to give yourself two or more hours. The market is full of weavings (both those worn by the Maya themselves and those produced for tourists), masks and other woodcarvings, and some rather convincing objects that the sellers will try to convince you are ancient Maya artifacts. Don't be fooled, you are much more likely to find an old weaving than an old mask.
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  The church of Santo Tomás is where the manuscript of the Popul Vuh was found in 1702. The church was built on the site of a Maya altar, and it is reputed that the steps are made from stones of that altar. The cofrades perform ceremonies on an altar outside the church, but they are not permitted to do those rituals within the church itself. Of all the churches I have entered, it feels the most sacred.
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  In addition to the market, which everyone knows about, you should also visit Pascual Abaj, the ancient Maya site where rituals are still done on a daily basis. It is no more that a twenty minute walk from the church. In the photo above of the church as you are facing the church, go to your right down the hill and at the next corner turn right again and continue downhill. In about two or three blocks the road curves to you left and you come to a small meadow. You will see signs for Pascual Abaj there. Pascual Abaj is up the hill, but you will have to get to the path by going through one of the two morerias (a place where the dancers rent the masks and costumes for the masked dances put on at festivals) that are owned by two brothers in competition with each other. Diego Ignacio Nix is the brother in the photo. They are descendents of a family of mask-makers and they are probably the best mask-makers in town, so don't buy a mask in the market until you have at least seen the quality of their work. They also have incredible collections of old masks. You might be able to convince them to put on a little dance for you, but expect to pay for the privilege. Chichicastenango has some of the best masked dancers of any Maya towns, so if you are in Guatemala for the festival of Santo Tomás, the week of December 21, don't miss it.
   
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  From the top of the hill you can see the town. At the far end of the crest you will see the site of Pascual Abaj, and if you are lucky you will encounter one or more Aq'iij (Maya priests) performing a ceremony in the K'iche Mayan language. If you listen closely you will probably hear them calling for the blessing of  "Jesus Cristo" along with the spirits of the air, water, and mountain. Of all the ancient sacred Maya sites this is the most well known, and as a result, if you are polite, they will welcome you to observe the ceremonies, and will probably allow you to photograph them.
   
 
   
. Volunteer Activities ] Free Activities ] Paid Activities ]  

  Weaving Classes ] Visiting Santiago Atitlán ] [ Visiting Chichicastenango ]  


For questions and answers in English call me in San Francisco, California at (415) 282-7654 (I will be away from December 25 to January .) or email me at .

Mailing address:
Casa Rosario Spanish School
Canton Sanjay
San Pedro la Laguna
Depto. Sololá
Guatemala, C.A.

All paintings and photographs Copyright © 1988–2013 Arte Maya Tz'utuhil
Todas pinturas y fotografías son Derechos Reservados
© 1988–2013 Arte Maya Tz'utuhil

All paintings are copyrighted by Arte Maya Tz'utuhil for the artist. The reproduction rights are reserved and administered by Arte Maya Tz'utuhil for the artist. Reproduction for commercial reasons without prior written consent is strictly prohibited.