Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Before breakfast we walked the dogs from our hotel down to Lake Atitlan’s edge. Surprise! The air had been cleared by last night’s rain and we could see all three of the volcanoes that surround the lake. One of the photos here shows the lake with two volcanoes.

Soon as breakfast was over we left the dogs at the hotel and went for a one-hour drive over a mountain to the town of Chichicastenango (place where you can find the chichicaste plant). We went hoping to attend Mass at St. Thomas church and knowing that today was a market day for the town. It is one of the most exciting places we have been.

We approached the church and there were wonderful and strange things going on about the church steps. The church is very old and filled with Mayan people and incense and candles and the sound of a marimba. It was a very holy place and a moving Mass. A guide we hired later told us that the church shares its place with Mayan shamans. The shamans performed ceremonies with candles and incense (lots of it!) down the center of the church and on the church steps.

A big crowd gathered after Mass around the baptismal fount. We watched as long as we could. At the same time the shamans were performing on the great church steps.

The market was huge and jammed up against the church steps. There were gringos wandering about but this was no market for tourists. Everything from woven products to yarn to fresh meats and corn were sold along with odds and ends of electrical things and farm tools. The crowds were great and the little Mayan people just shoved everyone around the alleys like debris on a river. Great place!!!

Click on a photo to enlarge it a bit.

Tomorrow we start a long drive that will take us across the border to Mexico.

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