San Pedro la Laguna: Plots where townspeople grow their crops are a few minute walk from the center of town. People who hike up the San Pedro volcano are rewarded with spectacular views of the lake and of the Pacific Ocean.
San Pedro la Laguna: Cuyucos which used to be the only means of transportation on Lake Atitlán are still used by local fishermen. Easier to handle versions are available for rent. When other boats are not around, it is completely silent in the middle of the lake.
San Pedro la Laguna: Processions and festivities happen throughout the year. This was a procession during Semana Santa. For the Easter procession the main streets are blocked and the roads are covered with carpets made of flowers and color sawdust.
San Pedro la Laguna: Sculptor Feliciano Pop is a recognized national treasure. From the soft volcanic rock found nearby, he carves small and large sculptures that he says are dictated by the spirit of the material.
San Pedro la Laguna: Most of the traditional stone and adobe buildings have been replaced with multistory buildings of concrete block. The window in this house is adorned with a double headed bird, and the bird on top represents the Maya virgins who threw themselves off a cliff rather than marry the Spanish warriors. Legend says they turned into doves.
San Juan la Laguna: The shape of the mountain above San Juan resembles the profile of a sleeping Maya warrior. A hike to the top of his nose (nariz) takes about half an hour. It is one of the many sites where the Tz'utuhil Maya performed their traditional ceremonies out of sight of the Catholic priests.
San Juan la Laguna: When a new larger church was recently constructed, the original facade and bell tower was incorporated into the design. The old parish house to the left, still has the original hand carved posts. Each one is unique.
San Juan la Laguna: December to February the ripe coffee berries are picked. Most families have their own coffee plots. The sale of the coffee beans is the main cash crop for the Maya around the lake. The soft outer flesh has been removed and here the beans are set out to dry.
San Juan la Laguna: Most of the houses in San Juan have been painted tropical colors. The local artists have painted murals around town. This mural was painted by Diego Isaias Hernandez Mendez, a prize winning artist, and one of the two or three most original artists of San Juan.
San Juan la Laguna: Julian Coche Mendoza, a shy artist of few words, was the first local artist to go to art school in Guatemala City. When he returned he created a new style—Maya cubism. It has been copied by almost every artist around the lake. His paintings, which are usually better than the other artists, are available for a modest price at his brother Antonio's gallery near the market.
Santiago Atitlán: The town sits at the base of two volcanos; Volcan Toliman in the foreground and Atitlán behind. Santiago Atitlán is the most traditonal of the Maya towns around the lake. The boat from San Pedro to Santiago takes about half and hour, and is a delight when the lake is not rough. The winds which often arise in the afternoon and make the lake rough are known as Xocomil.
Santiago Atitlán: Parts of the church date from the 1500s. The hand carved altar inside mixes Maya imagery with Christian imagery. It is in the shape of a volcano.
Santiago Atitlán: The market, near the zocalo, is always crowded. The street from the dock is lined with galleries selling paintings, wood cavings, and textiles. The market itself is mainly food, vegetables and items for local residents.
Santiago Atitlán: Maximon, also known as San Simon or Rilaj Mam, is the most famous folk saint in Guatemala. The house where he resides is changed every year. Catholic priests who have tried to prohibit veneration of Maximon, have encounted fierce resistance from the Tz'utuhil Maya of Santiago Atitlán.
Santiago Atitlán: During the time of violence, nearly 2,000 men, women, and children of Santiago were murdered or disappeared, mainly at the hands of the military. In this painting by Pedro Rafael Gonzalez Chavajay of San Pedro, the women return home to find their menfolk murdered. This painting is in on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
Chichicastenango: The Church of Santo Tomás was built upon an ancient Maya ritual site. It was in this church building that the manuscript for the Popul Vuh was found. the Popul Vuh was the Maya creation story which was written down shortly after the conquest. It was hidden away for a couple hundred years which is why it was not destroyed.
Chichicastenango: The market place in front to the church is probably the most spectacular market in Guatemala or Central America. It is crowded with booths displaying hand woven textiles and wood carvings. The market happens on Thursdays and Sundays.
Chichicastenango: Moreria's are places where the Maya towns can rent masks and costumes for the traditional masked dances performed at their town festivals. Chicastenango is one of there towns where there are moreias. The performers would often walk for two days to get their costumes. The moreria of Diego Ignacio Nix has been in his family for centuries. Few tourists visit the moreria which is just a ten minute walk from the market. It is not to be missed if you visit Chichicastenango.
Chichicastenango: Pascual Abaj is perhaps the most famous Maya ritual site in Guatemala. It has been used since before the Conquest. It, and the hill in town where the church of San Tomás was built were twin ritual sites. Each site was in view of the other. To get to Pascual Abaj you have to pass through one of the morerias at the bottom of the hill. On almost any day you can witness a traditional Maya ritual being performed here.
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