Lake Atitlan, Maximon and Chichi Market

Trip Start Feb 01, 2012
Trip End Feb 21, 2012

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What I did
Maximon in Santiago
St James the Apostle Church - Santiago

Flag of Guatemala  , Sacatepéquez,
Thursday, February 16, 2012

That rooster was crowing at various times at night in Panajachel.  I woke up a few times and I think I heard him every time I woke up.  Then I got up and showered before the alarm but that was OK since I always seem to need more time.  We had decided not to buy the hotel breakfast so we ate our accumulated food reserves for breakfast.  Then we stashed our bags in Lou's room and walked to the dock for the boat across Lago Atitlan to Santiago.

When we got to Santiago, Lou led us up the hill past the church and market to the house where Maximon, a Mayan god, was living this year.  A shaman was in the house performing a rite and talking.  The room contained lots of lit candles and  fairy lights.  I think there were a few other people besides our group.  We filed in, paid our entrance fee and maybe a photo fee if we wanted to take photos.  I took 2 but I don't think the second was any good.  It was interesting to see them put lit cigarettes into Maximon's mouth.  The god likes cigarettes and food offerings.  Lou said we could stay  and be a part of the ceremony if we wanted.  She later told us that the man for whom the rite was being performed wanted 2 men to die that day because they had blocked his road.  Hmmm.

Our next stop was the church next to the market:  Saint James the Apostle.  Santiago is St. James in Spanish I am pretty sure so St. James must be the patron saint of this town.  Like Maximon's house, there were candles with
wax dripped on the floor or on the platforms for them in the aisles. 
There were statues of saints in glass cases and groups of saints dressed
in various colors, like pink, along the side of the church.  While we
were there, a women's service was in progress with women praying and a
woman leading the prayers.  There was also a photo and inscription to
the priest who was killed during the civil war.  Somewhere that I didn't
see were the names of other people killed in the war.  I have heard a lot of women's voices leading prayers in the various churches I have visited during this trip.

We walked back down the hill, stopped at a few market stalls to take photos or look at some of the crafts.  After awhile, we found the cooperative stall that Lou had mentioned and Clare bought a colorful embroidery of birds.  I had already bought an embroidery of the Mayan calendar although I hadn't really planned on it.  He was a successful salesman.  I was quite taken with the Mayan men's traditional costume, especially the embroidered pants.  We checked out a few stalls but they were much to expensive to warrant a purchase and I gave up on the idea.

David reminded us of the time so we started heading toward the dock by walking toward the volcano.  We walked along talking and looking at things.  We found ourselves in an area of gardens but we figured if we walked to the lake shore, we could get to the boat dock.  David went ahead to find out that this pathway was a dead end.  Then we couldn't quite remember which way would be toward the dock.  We went in one direction and came to another dead end.  We zigzagged through garden paths, then back alleyways until we were thoroughly confused and didn't appear any closer to the lake.  Someone said that we should get a tuk-tuk, but we waffled a bit, and then finally with 5 minutes to spare for the 11 am meeting time, we found an tuk-tuk to take us to the boat.  He went in the direction that we had started to go in and then rejected.  He went for quite a ways, and then we headed down steep cobbled streets to the lake.  We just made it as we saw the last two people crossing over toward the boat from the main dock.  First we tried to pretend that we didn't get lost, but then admitted it.

Crossing Lake Atitlan back was not quite as stunning as the morning ride over to Santiago with the mist over the volcanoes, but it was still lovely.  We could see some fishing boats - although the lake is polluted and people aren't supposed to be swimming in it.  There were also some big villas we could see along the shore.  I can remember that the last time I was in Guatemala and here at Lake Atitlan, we took a boat to San Pedro instead.

We were picked up by our bus with all our bags already on it.  There was a little scramble to all get seated comfortably with our own bags, but it eventually worked out.  The drive to Chichicastenango was about an hour and a half over windy roads with speed bumps.  The speed bumps have been installed to create more security on Guatemala roads.  Also Lou had told us about the buses.  The city buses have been updated to take electronic cards rather than cash so that the robbers who were stealing the fares and even killing the bus drivers would stop.  So far the plan has worked to improve safety on the Guatemala buses.   We could see some of the terraced fields with their corn stalks.  Many were in the plowed stage now.

In Chichicastenango, we parked the bus in a fenced-in lot and walked to the center of the market.  This is a huge market, held on Thursdays and Sundays, for all of Guatemala.  Mayan woman come from 5 hrs away to sell their goods.  Lou said it has been a market for 4000 years.  We first visited the larger of the two churches next to the market.  Lou warned us that
foreigners are not allowed up the front steps so we went into the church
through a side entrance.  This is the church that is focus of so many photos and postcards.

Lou had given us more info on where to find things in the market area so we walked up to the balcony above the produce market and took some photos, then we went to the restaurant with a balcony but we could only see roofs of buildings so we decided to order something to eat and drink.  Maggie and Charlie came so we all ate together.  After that we wandered around the market a bit.  I am not sure how Clare and David felt, but I might have been much more interested in shopping for all the wondrous things this market had to offer if the salespeople weren't so pushy.  They latched onto you and wouldn't let go, no matter how many times you said no, thank you.  I did buy something though but got tired of being hassled.  We walked along several rows of stalls and looked at things and tried to photograph the beautiful traditional clothes of both women and men.  We ended up across from the Santo Tomas  Hotel that was the back-up meeting place in case we couldn't find the bus parking place.  Most everyone was already there - also tired of shopping, or maybe successful at whatever limited shopping they may have wanted to do.  We walked back to the bus.  There was some confusion whether Naomi was waiting at the hotel but she got on the bus and we left for Antigua.

I don't have a lot to write about this 3 hour segment of the day because I kept dropping off to sleep.  I seemed to be extremely tired.  I did pop my eyes open now and then and snap a few photos of the landscape.  We could see three or more volcanoes as we approached Antigua.  Our hotel is about a block from the main square.  We went off to our rooms - this one is huge with two double beds in a large room.  Some of the other rooms have windows that look out onto the courtyards in this old hacienda building.  I would like to explore it more but it wasn't very well lit up tonight.

Even though I wasn't sure I wanted to go out to dinner, I did.  We followed Lou to a restaurant run by an artist friend of hers.  Kerry was there and Naomi joined us too.  Four of us ordered the giraffe - which is really chicken.  Both the menu and the dishes themselves are quite creative and the owner served us and appeared to be quite in line with the rest of the establishment.  We drank two bottles of wine and had a fine time.  Back here in our room, I am writing this up on the computer while Clare read a bit and then went to sleep.  Now it is my turn to follow her lead.

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