26th May 2011

After transferring to Chichicastenango (Chichi) [4] in the Guatemalan highlands, we headed down to the main square to match the people setting up their stalls for the market the following day. Amidst the hectic scene people were cooking tortillas, corn and fried chicken. Next to the Market is the church of Santo Tomás (1540), built on top of a Mayan temple. 18 steps, one for each month in the Mayan calendar, lead up to the church. The evening before market, incense and candles are burnt on the church steps to pray for good sales.


People from the surrounding villages have been bringing their goods here to sell since before the Spanish. Arriving early on market day, we sat high on the church steps among the flower sellers to watch the vibrant movement of people. A stall could be as simple as a basket of berries on the street, a bucket of chillies or corn from the sack to expensive jewellery.  As well as the quality handicrafts there is pottery, household goods, fruit and vegetables, wooden masks, chickens, fragrant wood and much more. Offerings were burnt in front of the church in an age old Mayan ritual, more incense was spread about which filled the church before the arrival of 2 Cofradias (Mayan priests). There is an acceptance of Mayan beliefs, and a strange mix of Catholicism and Mayan rites.


The ladies´ blouses here remind us of an old fashioned tapestry wall hanging. The hand embroidered patterns on top of an already heavy woven material cover almost the entire blouse. At 2000 meters up, it can get cold in Chichi. Yet the skirts go only just below the knees, in contrast to the women of Lake Atitlán who wear theirs down to their ankles.


1540 Santo Tomás Church in the centre of Chichi

Market stalls being set up the night before

Flower sellers on the Church steps

Incense being spread around outside the Church

Offerings burnt at the bottom of the steps to the Church

Mayan priests on their way to the Church

Kneeling in front of the Church

A simple stall


Turkey anyone?

Every market needs a snake oil man

Stacks of colourful hand woven cloth

Corn is sold from the sack

Flower seller

Typical dress

People standing around the market

Little old lady with her flowers

Chichi is a famous for ceremonial mask carving

Blue tortillas, made from blue corn, cooking at the market