“On the Road Guatemala” is XelaWho’s somewhat-regular series on interesting travel destinations throughout Guatemala and the region. This months installment: The Sunday Market in Chichicastenango
By Claire Bourgín
Chichicastenango, or Chichi for short, is a small town in the department of Quiche with a big, world-famous market that is perched up at 2070 meters. If you need to shop for gifts for your family and friends back home, Chichi is a great place to go on a Sunday to buy some colorful textiles.
Start your visit at the Catholic Church where it’s common to see indigenous people performing ancestral rituals on the front stairs. The smoke from and the smell of the incense cover the place.
During market days, the vendors of typical products, masks and religious images offer their products to visitor. Wander around the stalls and be ready to bargain!
If you’re hungry, you can find anything to eat: fried or cooked chicken, chuchitos (corn pastry filled with beef or pork), jocotes (red mombin fruits) and peanuts. The smell of the corn tortillas just out of the comales (cookware) will give you an appetite.
You will be surrounded by women in ropa tipica, considered as one of the most traditional and colorful in Guatemala. While women have preserved their dress, men are not using it anymore. Only the Cofrades (religious brotherhoods) and Chuch-Kajaws (Mayan priests) wear it during the festivals, such as on December 21st.
To complete your visit, go to a small hill outside town named Turcanj where is the most important altar in the country. Its name means “sacred place” or “sacred stone”. It was built for the Maya God named Pacual Abaj who is the god of man, woman, fertility and rain. At the top, you will see some Catholic crosses which were erected during the earthquake of 1976. Catholics and Mayas decided to plant four crosses to symbolize the four cardinal points, to protect the place from future earthquakes. Rituals include burning candles, giving food and alcohol, and even killing chickens. You can visit the place but don’t take any pictures of people or touch any objects used for the rituals. To get there, walk downhill on 5a Avenida from the main Plaza, turn right onto 9a Calle and follow it downhill.
To get to Chichi, take a direct chicken bus from the terminal bound for Santa Cruz del Quiché. Or you can take any Pullman or chicken bus bound for Guatemala City and transfer at Los Encuentros. It will take around 3 hours and cost Q25. Local tour companies also offer plenty of options.