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04 February 2011
Photo Friday: young and old at the Chichi market

Just so you don't think I've fallen off the planet, here are two quick flashback snaps from my 2007 trip through Central America. The Chichicastenango market in Guatemala is one of the typical stops on the backpacker circuit. It offers a mindboggling array of crafts & photo opps. Nearly everyone's trying to sell you something, but there are also quiet moments of reflection in the burning offerings at the Mayan shrines on either side of the marketplace.

crafty and persistent urchins
crafty and persistent urchins

burnt offerings in front of the chapel
burnt offerings in front of the chapel

For more fabulous travel snaps, check out DeliciousBaby's Photo Friday.


RELATED LINKS:
* Browse all Chichicastenango pics
* Browse all Guatemala pics
* Read posts from my Chichi experience


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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


12 August 2007
Market day in Chichi
I made it out alive!

flowers and offeringsWell, I managed to make it through a busy morning at the Chichi market, and even escaped with my dignity mostly intact! Huzzah! Quite the cavalcade of peoplewatching, both locals and gringos! I grabbed an early breakfast and was pleased to sit and watch the world go by for a bit. Men and women with huge bundles balanced on their heads, merchants setting up for the day, many women in indigenous dress with children strapped to their backs and in tow... and the gringos started trickling in...

a sea of fresh produceI did a few laps around the marketplace, and stood on the second floor of the Centro Commercial to watch the vegetable market in full swing. Interesting stuff. I have never seen such huge piles of carrots, onions, tomatoes, and other unrecognizable vegetation. Some vendors had actual scales but most used a system of stones in a hand scale to weigh the purchases. Then I sat on the steps of the church for a while, watching men and women swing cannisters of estoraque incense and chant prayers, while more urchins selling magnets and wooden necklaces made urgent pitches. And the gringos kept flooding in.

offerings in front of the churchWisely having taken stock the night before, I realized I had enough tchotchkes and mementos to satisfy my needs. (And anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Sonia World Tour Fund, just lemme know and I can arrange to send you a lovely fridge magnet! I knew a girl who funded most of her RTW trip that way, sharp cookie.) I popped in the church, carefully going in through the side entrance as the book recommended, and sat for a while to watch the festivities. Inside was an interesting mix of Mayan and Christian traditions. Old women lit candles and sprinkled rose petals in offerings on low stone tablets in the aisles. A priest was leading a prayer chant in the back. People lined up to make additional offerings in front. Gringos streamed by, ignoring the many posted requests to not take pictures and generally making asses of themselves by disturbing the proceedings. Just another market day in Chichi.

cheapest lunch in townAfter spending a bit more time on the stairs outside the church, watching the world go by, I decided to try to find some lunch. The market is sprawling, but there is some method to the madness and the food stalls were lined up on the very inside of the plaza. Fortunately they were covered, too, because as I sat down the heavens opened and it began to pour in Biblical proportions. I enjoyed my chicken, rice, and papas fritas (happily, another bargain meal) and listened to the rain beat down on the tin rooftops. It stopped within an hour or so, but left behind muddy swirling motes and lakes on the cobblestone streets. Muck! Slurm!

Fed up with the teeming masses, I headed out to an internet cafe to catch up on email and plan my next day´s journey to Nebaj. As it´s a bit off the beaten Gringo Trail, it should provide a slightly different picture of Guatemalteco life.

 

Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


11 August 2007
So much for haggling
Apparently I am as stupid as I look

Another travel day, and also an uprooting from the Black Cat Xela, my home away from home for nearly the past week. Surprisingly, I will miss this offbeat place... my odd chats with Joanne, the bizarre Claire (whom I have forgiven for her past transgressions), and most especially the breakfasts! Mmmmm, desayuno típico, with your eggs, beans, friend plantains, tomato, avocado, toast, and weird crumbly tasteless cheese, I shall miss you the most!

Anyway, I grabbed the now-familiar micro/camioneta combo and headed to Chichicastenango, which on Thursdays and Sundays hosts the most famous market in all of Guatemala. Found a nice room with a spectacular view of the town and the church, and set off to see about getting a guided tour to the Pascual Abaj shrine, a Mayan altar perched high in the hills above town.

Pascual Abaj Mayan shrine, main altarI wandered down the street, and sure enough one of the "licensed" guides approached me. Not learning from my Santiago Atitlán experience, I failed to pre-negotiate a price, but decided that 20Q should be adequate. We headed up a really steep hill -- curse this frickin country where everything is up-frickin-hill -- and had a pleasant enough conversation in Spanish. And when we reached the top of the hill he had lots of good information about the various Mayan altars and rituals. We´d obviously just missed seeing an actual ceremony, though. But he went through a litany of info about what each altar is for (requests for a good marriage, healthy pregnancy, end to vices, peace in the country, good harvests, etc) and some information about Mayan shamans (there are equal numberes of men and women in each village, as guys have to go to a male shaman and women to a female. And then he offered to take me to the local weaving cooperative where I could buy a mask or a hand-made blanket, and everything was authentic, and he´d make sure I got a good price, yada yada yada. I tried getting him to tell me what a decent price might be, as it´s hard to haggle when you´re not sure what your goal is, but he deflected with the old "don´t worry, I´m your guide, I´m here to guide you!" Right.

the ripoff crew (and she looks so innocent!)Long story short, I wound up spending more than I´d intended, albeit on a very nice piece of tapestry that may make a lovely wedding present for a certain brother and future sister-in-law. Once again I felt somewhat used and abused, but I guess that´s what we gringo tourists are here for. To make matters worse, I had trouble finding the right change, and had to stop at like three stores before I found a shopkeeper who would break a 100Q bill. (It started to feel ridiculously like that South Park episode where zombies wander around asking for chaaaaaaaaange, doesn´t anybody have any chaaaaaaange?) And then the coup-de-grace, when I offered the guide his 20Q he was incredbily offended and demanded 50. No way, man, not after you just helped fleece me outta my hard-earned cash for that weaving! I reminded him that it was supposed to be a voluntary thing, and he snarled and wished me Bad Luck and stalked off. Great, that was a stellar start to my Chichi visit.

After cooling down a bit (literally and figuratively) I wandered around the plaza area and watched the vendors set up for the next day´s event. I also took a look at the church, which is on one side of the plaza, and the smaller Calvario Chapel, which is on the other side. The chapel was pretty interesting, with Mayan copal offerings out front, and dark spooky saints on the inside. The attendant suggested I contribute some "alms" and then seemed disappointed when I only tossed in a few coins. Cram it, sister, I´m not in the mood.

crafty and persistent urchinsOutside, I sat on the steps and watched as the setup continued. I was relentlessly pestered by some persistent urchins trying to sell fridge magnets. A foreshadowing of Sunday´s activities! The second one actually gave me some rap about Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes, waggling his dirty sandals in my face. And when I declined he was like "How ´bout you just give me a Quetzal, then?" How ´bout you give me a frickin break?? I know I look like a walking dollar sign to you, but for just five minutes can I sit here in peace? Clearly not.

I did manage to get a good deal on dinner at a local comedor, and was amused at the WWF entertainment on TV. They love the fake wrestling in this country! Wandered back to my hotel, and decided to get a good night´s sleep in preparation for the assault tomorrow.

 

Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments