The Zunil Museum

by Jed Herrmann

XelaWho’s continuing series on Xela museums takes us a little bit farther afield this month- in fact all the way into neighboring Zunil. For those readers that are thinking, “Zunil, that’s going to involve a chicken bus isn’t it?”, be assured that this journey outside of Xela was not lightly undertaken.

The first choice for this month’s edition of “A Xela Museum of Minor Interest” was the Railroad Museum (conveniently housed at the Centro Intercultural in Zone 3). The museum recounts the history of the Ferrocarril de Los Altos, Xela’s very own train line.

Unfortunately that’s all I can tell you since the museum is currently closed. The guard outside guessed the museum would re-open any day now (as soon as the replacement for the recently retired curator appears). So it is possible that it may be open by the time you read this- though, given the Guatemalan concept of time, I’ll bet you a copy of XelaWho that it won’t be open in time for a review in August’s issue.

Further investigation into other purported museums in Xela, including several “Café and Museum” type outposts, turned up little more than mildly interesting old miscellany (though that may not actually be much different from the collection at some of the officially sanctioned museums in town).

Thus here you are on a bus to Zunil to see the Zunil Museum. Dedicated to preserving the quickly vanishing pieces of Zunil’s cultural history, the year-old museum features areas dedicated to indigenous clothes, Mayan religion, and weaving. The highlight is the very earnest guided tour (Spanish and Quiche only), which explains the artifacts and includes a weaving demonstration. With 6 different looms of various sizes and histories, weaving lessons, and woven items for sale, the museum is a good tribute to the disappearing traditional textile industry. Other highlights include an explanation of the offerings given at Mayan altars and the reconstruction of a traditional home.

Decidedly a homegrown affair the Zunil Museum is usually open from 2-5pm every day, but best to get in touch with Gregorio or Ventura (the husband and wife curators) to confirm they will be open (4549-4922 or So if you’ve got some time on a rainy afternoon, hop the bus to Zunil (the museum is on the main road before you get to the town) for the Q20 half-hour tour of the museum’s 4 rooms.

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