Suitcase and World: Chichicastanango.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Chichicastanango. I love the name. It just rolls off the tongue. Commonly referred to just as Chichi, this mountain Guatemalan town is known for for its traditional K'iche' culture.  The K'iche' are the largest indigenous Mayan culture. 

Chichi is home to a very colorful  and lively native market.  Market days are Sundays and Thursdays, and draw not only the K'iche' Maya of the surrounding region, but vendors from all over Guatemala, representing many of Guatemala's linguistic groups such as Mam, Ixil, Kaqchikel and others, hawking products ranging from handicrafts, food, flowers, pottery, and wooden boxes to medicinal plants, copal (traditional incense) and even farm animals.  In the central part of the market plaza are comedores (small eateries). I've been told that textiles are a popular item for sale as are apparently, wooden masks.  The manufacture of masks, used by dancers in traditional dances, have also made Chichi well-known for woodcarving.  I see a mask making it's way back home with me :-)

As with most markets, Chichi's is also well organized with vendors of specific goods occupying traditional sites in the market area.  It will be interesting to see if we can figure out the layout or if we just get lost :-)

From what I've read, Chichi will be THE place to see Mayans in their traditional native costumes, the patterns and designs of which will tell you where the wearers are from.  Unfiortnately, I'm not knowledgeable enough in Guatemalan textiles to know the differences so I will just be oohing and ahhing over the colorful costumes.

Aside from the market, the other tourist hot spots in Chichi are the Iglesia de Santo Tomás and the Popul Vuh Museum of Mayan artifacts. 

Between spending time in market and wandering the other tourist places, I think my visit to Chichi is going to be a very fascinating one.  I'm very excited!!