Visiting the Chichicastenango Market
Market day in Santo Tomás Chichicastenango is an exhilarating experience. This village in the highlands of Guatemala is home to more than 50,000 people. On Thursday and Sunday, they host the Chichicastenango market, and many of the inhabitants of the surrounding villages show up for their weekly groceries.
Because of the people’s dress, traditions, and communal activities, attending the Chichicastenango market is like going back in time discovering unique Mayan customs and patterns. There is so much vibrancy, creativity, and bustle at the market it’s hard to know where to start. You’ll make the best use of time by hiring a local guide to take you around. This is especially wise if you’re not fluent in Spanish.
There are many foods, produce, and animals at the market, but the creative works drew our attention.
Art and Traditional Goods
Approaching the market is an experience as the scenery morphs into picturesque landscapes. Before we knew it, we were high in the mountain, surrounded by a patchwork of color. And then we saw the market. The market seems humongous at first, but you’ll soon learn the pattern of the layout. There are textiles at the front, produce and animals in the center, prepared food near the back, and flowers at the end of the church steps.
Most of the Chichicastenango market takes over the entire center of the village. Tents made of tarps and cloth cover the vendors and their wares. Stalls are spaced close together along the narrow cobblestone streets. It is the largest Central American market, and the number of vendors sells woodcarvings, pottery, hammocks, traditional clothing, masks, candles, textiles, and many other craftworks is mind-boggling. The conventional materials are like nothing we’ve seen elsewhere.
Iglesia de Santo Tomás
Nearby the Chichicastenango market, the Iglesia de Santo Tomás church is another source of inspiration. Mayan worshipers built the church around 1545, and it remains a revered temple still today. According to the Maya calendar, the Catholic Maya priests speak the traditional K’iche language and still use the ancient rituals.
Mayan ceremony traditions
Priests hold traditional Maya ceremonies on the church’s steps, and we were privileged to witness one. The church has 18 steps representing a month of the Mayan calendar. These public services are so standard that they took place right in the middle of the flower section of the Chichicastenango market.
The priest and people performed rituals as incense burned and gave offerings. Somehow, we realized we were seemingly the only tourist surrounded by locals and grateful to witness the holy rites.
Visiting Chichicastenango Market
You wouldn’t waste a moment if you spent an entire day at the market. If you’re visiting the Lake Atitlan area of Guatemala, it’s worth the trip. The time we spent at the market taught us so much about the Maya people’s history and how creativity and design enrich all aspects of their lives.
Even if you don’t want to shop, you will find it worthwhile. It gave us inspiration for infusing more creativity into every day and a better understanding of a different culture, and that’s always valuable.