Wednesday, 30 January 2008


Sunday 26th January

The place with the unpronounceable name. Well almost, it has taken me nearly 4 months and a visit to the place itself to learn to pronounce it correctly. It was always that 'cas' in the middle that threw me each time. Now I'm fluent and ready to take on saying town names such as Chimaltenango and Quetzeltenango - no problem!

Chichi Flower Seller
Chichi market

Thousands of Mayans from the surrounding area and dozens of tourists shipped in from Antigua and Pana come to Chichi every Thursday and Sunday for the massive market. It is a riot of colour as most of the women and some of the men still wear traditional handwoven clothes, with designs differing from one village to the next. The market fills the main square and church steps and comes in four parts - the covered fruit and vegetable market, the main part of the square and surrounding streets selling everything from ceremonial incense to cheap clothes via hardware and live turkeys, the flower market on the church steps and finally the market for the tourists selling textiles, masks and woodcarvings. The first three are almost solely for Mayans and the core of the square are a group of cheap eating places.

Chichi Textiles
Chichi Textiles

We tourists really only drift around the edges of this temporary village even though it is one of the main tourist destinations in Guate. It never felt like a zoo when I was there as there are just so many Mayan people doing what they are there to do. And with the place being so packed they don't hold much quarter trying to get around static tourists looking confused or taking photos.

The whole market is extremely exciting and dynamic and if you can find a spot to one side to watch it, it is mesmerising.

Chichi Fruit and Veg
Better than Tesco anyday.

One of the main events of Sunday is morning mass in the Catholic church. Except this church integrates traditional Mayan rituals with Catholicism. Elders from the town and surrounding area attend on mass, the priest reminds them all that whatever way they worship it is Christ they come for, then after he finishes people light candles and murmur on 12 square altars laid along the aisle from the front to the back of the church. Many people also burn incense before entering the church to bless the spirit of the church itself.

Getting There
I went to Chichi by chicken bus from Antigua. You get the buses from behind the market. You first take a bus to Chimeltenango, then a bus to Los Encuentros and then the final bus to Chichi. There was no wait at any of the changes and the buses are quick! The final stretch is a half-hour ride up and down steep roads with tight zig-zag bends that the drivers take at speeds Michael Schumacher would find difficult to match while the conductors lean out of the door shouting at every other vehicle to get out of their way. The bus ride is an experience in itself.

I stayed in the basic and cheap Posada Belen on one side of town. The balconies overlook a wooded ravine on one side and the town on the other. It is nothing fancy but rooms are large. The shared shower had hot water two days out of three.

Chichicastengo Elders
Mayan elders attending mass

Incense Spirit
Blessing the spirit of the church. Note the Harley Davidson jacket!

Chichicastengo Elders 2

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