Monday, April 27, 2009 7:01 AM
Guatemala Road Trip - Santiago Atitlan and San Pedro la Laguna
Good news! Rob is on the mend and today he was feeling up to a boat ride across the lake to explore some of the smaller villages, specifically Santiago and San Pedro. We hired a lancha and set off to enjoy a beautiful warm day. It was overcast as we started off across the lake which made the volcanoes surrounding us seem very ominous as they appeared and disappeared in the mist. It was a still day and the water was just like glass. We easily skimmed along to the other side of the lake in record time.
Our first stop was Santiago, a lovely village on the lake that has managed to maintain much of it's authenticity despite the increase in tourism in this attractive region. Santiago is an excellent place to visit if you are interested in seeing the daily workings of a modern Maya village. The local language, Tzutujil, is still spoken predominantly although the vendors use enough Spanish to peddle their wares. There are 54 known Maya languages currently in use in Guatemala, each unique to a region, department (state) or village. For more information on the various Maya languages in Guatemala, click here.
Wanting to make the most of our time, we hired a tuk-tuk to drive us through the city, giving us the "whistle-stop" tour as we went along. First stop, to find Maximon. In Santiago, there are five Maximons. Each of the five idols is kept in the home of a different family every year. They are charged with his care and some of the money that is "offered" to him goes to support the family. In this case, we stopped on a narrow, empty street and were pointed down an even narrower back alley, past a few other homes, to a small open door. A classic W.W.M.D. moment if there ever was one. This, the first of the host homes that we would find, was a cramped, dark, incense filled room, with chairs for his guests and followers. It was lit with candles and decorated with hanging flowers, herbs, and liquor bottles. Maximon was covered with silk scarves and flanked on either side by his attendants (posse) who welcomed us inside, granted us permission to take photos, accepted donations and generally held court.
We continued our tour with a visit to the lovely Catholic church with its impressive bell tower. Parts of this church date all the way back to 1571.
As we drove up over the town, we were afforded a great view of the public washing area on the shore. I love that the municipality provides garbage bins.
We continued on up the hill to a small park built to memorialize the eleven lives lost in the winter of 1990 when the Guatemalan military opened fire into a group of demonstrators. The massacre was so shocking and reflected so poorly on the current administration that they immediately pulled all forces out of Santiago, never to return. A small ceremony is performed on this spot every year on December 2.
Before finishing our tour of the village, we made a last minute visit to a second "Casa de Maximon", located in an empty room behind a bike shop. The now familiar idol was placed at one end of an airy, nearly empty room, colorful flowers and crepe paper decorations overhead, with his wife, smoking a cigarette in a coffin like enclosure behind him. Judging from the empty booze bottles lined up for her, she must have been quite a broad! In an adjacent open air courtyard, the ladies of the house, tended to the washing of the clothes that adorn the idol. There must have been hundreds of fanciful scarves hung out, drying in the sun.
We have found that, for the most part in the towns of the Western Highlands, the women still wear the tradition huipiles of their region. I would conservatively say that 85% of the women we saw were in the dress customary to their village but that, by and large, the men tended to lean toward more modern, "westernized" attire. In Santiago, the majority of the men also wore their traditonal trajes, white and purple shorts, cut below the knee, striped and/or embellished with rows of exquisitely embroidered regional birds. These daily wear outfits, the short pants often paired with a well pressed button down oxford-style shirt, the traditional "banda" wrapped around the waist and a straw cowboy hat were really good looking. The women wore costumes, predominantly in shades of blue and purple, all with the colorful embroidered birds or flowers on their huipiles. This village and these costumes were the standout favorites of this trip.
Doesn't he look just dandy!
From Santiago, our lancha took us about 20 minutes northwest to San Pedro. Often referred to as "the new Pana", San Pedro has become the new hot spot for young travelers and really caters to the European backpacking crowd. The town is also starting to attract a lot of Spanish students looking for an alternative to Antigua and Xela. After a quick lunch at Nick's, we found a tuk-tuk to take us around and show us the sights.
Our kids fishing off the docks below us.
Traditional traje of San Pedro la Laguna
A small, family run coffee processor.
Great view of the new Evangelical Christian Church in San Pedro.
El Nariz del Indio - Can you see it?
We puttered around San Pedro and neighboring San Juan for awhile, seeing the sights and chatting with our young drivers. The boys let our kids take turns driving the tuk-tuk which will undoubtedly become a highlight of their trip. The afternoon winds having picked up, our ride back to Pana was considerably less comfortable than the trip across. We were tired when we returned, after a delicious Asian inspired meal at "Chinitas", we tumbled into bed early and rested up for the big drive ahead of us.
Next stop, Rio Dulce!