Discover GUATEMALA and its vibrant markets
One of the best things about visiting Guatemala is exploring its vibrant markets, packed with colourful Mayan textiles, traditional wooden handicrafts and jade jewellery. One of them is Chichicastenango. Chichicastenango is home to one of the largest outdoor markets in Latin America, not only Guatemala’s biggest and best market but also its most historic.
Chichicastenango – nicknamed Chichi by locals – is located about 90 miles from the capital, Guatemala City. Surrounded by mountains and pine-swathed hills, Chichi sits at an altitude of 1,965 meters and has a population of around 42,500. For hundreds of years, vendors and buyers throughout the region met to trade at Chichi. Many ethnic groups are regulars on market days, to name a few: the K’iche’ Maya, Kaqchikel, Mam, Ixil and several others.
With a deserved reputation as the most colourful native market in the Americas, Chichi comes alive twice a week Thursday and Sunday. Portable stalls are set up in the central plaza and the surrounding blocks, in preparation for locals pouring into the streets to explore this vibrant symphony of colours and costumes, smoke and smells.
The market here is most famous for its textiles, particularly huipils, traditional garments worn by indigenous women and girls in Guatemala. Usually decorated with colourful and exotic designs, every huipil takes between 3-12 months to make. Different regions of the country use different tones and patterns. Arguably the best quality huipils are found in Chichi and are popular with both locals and tourists.
Chichi is also known for its wood carvings, especially the wooden ceremonial masks used in traditional Mayan dances, and leather goods like shoes, boots, belts and hats. Colourful fabrics are piled up at stalls and can be bought as raw material or as tablecloths, placement sets and wool blankets. Other popular products include handmade jewellery (particularly jade and silver), pottery, incense and candles, medicinal plants, fruits, vegetables and various other souvenirs.
But not only the market is the main attraction at Chichicastenango there is also the Santo Tomas church, a Dominican catholic temple that dates back to 1540. The church built on the site of an ancient Mayan temple features impressive characteristics in its construction, as the 18 steps leading to the entrance to the church which represent the months of the Mayan calendar.
Catholic and Mayan ceremonies take place at Santo Tomas church. Perhaps no church in the country better represents the concept of fusion and syncretism and the blending of theologies than the Santo Tomas church.
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