Chichicastenango: A Huge Colorful Market in the Mountains of Guatemala
Anyone who asks ‘What happened to the Maya people?’ has never been to Guatemala. The indigenous people of the country who identify as Maya comprise 40% of the population. And in some areas, the percentages are much higher, you hear the Maya dialects spoken everywhere and the dress is absolutely gorgeous.
Chichicastenango (pronounced just like you’d think and often shortened to “ChiChi”) is famous for the HUGE market place that is held each Tuesday and Friday. Hundreds of merchants walk and bus in or sleep in the stalls overnight. By 9am in the morning, the streets are PACKED with locals and visitors.
92% of the population speaks K’iche Mayan. Obviously I didn’t understand one word…but it’s beautiful to hear.
And if you like shopping, bargaining or just beautiful things, this is the place for you. It’s sensory overload but there are places to duck out for a cup of coffee if you become overwhelmed. It’s well worth the winding, steep crazy ride to get there.
I decided to take one of the many shuttles that go from Antigua to my next stop of Lake Atitlan. On Tuesday and Sunday, most of the shuttles stop for 3 or 4 hours in Chichi. Everyone unloads and is sucked into the maze of the market.
In about two hours we went from 4900 feet in Antigua to the tops of the mountains to Chichi at about 6500 feet. It was COLD! On the overcast day, it was in the mid 50s and windy. You definitely want a jacket.
There is an inside market that is FILLED with fruits, vegetables and people. I immediately went upstairs to take a photo…
One side of the market was food, electronics, socks, clothing, every day needs. The other side was beautiful crafts of all sorts.
And a sight common in many of the places I visited. Fat, delicious homemade blue and yellow corn tortillas being made.
But something that I had never seen…men chiseling off pieces of cal – or lime – to make the tortilla dough. It adds calcium to a diet that has very little.
I know I talked about going to Guatemala with a budget…and I know I shouldn’t be shopping, I don’t actually NEED these things. No I don’t. But oh did I want them!
Here is what I purchased in Chichi. And the prices that I can recall – they should be close.
- Lighter blue hand embroidered pillow cases with national birds (quetzal) – 2 for $24US
- Handpainted masks – rat and jaguar – 2 for $13US
- Handmade pom poms – 4 for $5US
- Long strip (belt) of navy and pink fabric with diamond embroidery – $13US
- Long woven pink strip with pom pom ends (used as hair wrap) – $7US
- Small pink and black jade earrings – $15US
- Large piece of foot loomed navy and white striped cloth with colored embroidery – $9US
Please don’t judge me too harshly.