Chichi Market and Arrival at Lago Atitlan
Craig and Steph's Easter in Guatemala
Andre led us to the Iglesia de Santo Tomas church. On the steps out front, people were gathering and selling flowers. We gave a Q5 donation and entered the church. This church was a perfect place to attend Palm Sunday mass as it is a very important church for the Maya people. The neighboring building is where the Popol Vuh (K'i che' bible containing the creation story involving the hero twins) was discovered in 1702. The majority of churchgoers were Mayan women and children. They were dressed in traditional clothing and the women had folded tapestries covering their heads. As we had seen the night before, many little girls were charged with taking care of their younger siblings. Even the babies had a certain maturity to them. Very few cried or made any sort of fuss during the long Mass.The air was thick with copal incense. A large float with Jesus on the cross was propped up on the first six rows of pews. There were several slate slabs on the center aisle where people were lighting candles and dropping flower petals. Purple and lavender silk panels were festooned from the ceiling. We were each given a cross made out of palm fronds. The altar, pulpit, etc. were carved of beautiful dark wood.
At around 8:15, Mass began. A procession entered the front door of the church. First were the cofrades (members of the cofradia, or religious brotherhood, dedicated to a Christian saint) with their metal staffs, followed by two smaller Jesus floats which were placed on either side of the altar. The mass was in Spanish and there was a lot of singing. It was very interesting to witness a Catholic mass going on in the front of the church while various Maya activities were being performed in the center aisle. We stayed through the gospel and most of the homily, at which time Andre appeared at the side door and motioned for us to leave. We could have spent the day there but we had things to do.
After meeting up with the rest of the group we walked downhill from the center of town to a small mask museum that marked the beginning of the trail to the Pascual Abaj Idol. We hiked up a large hill. At the top there were several Mayan families and a shaman making offerings to the idol. The shaman placed candles on their sides into a circle and lit them, and he lit some fires of newspaper and branches as well. He swung an incense burner made out of a tin can while he chanted. Families kneeled in front of the idol and kissed it. There was a great view of a nearby cemetery from the top of the hill. Each crypt was painted in beautiful bright colors and it really caught our eyes as we looked around from the hilltop. A few girls were standing nearby selling souvenirs but we felt it was a very inappropriate location and avoided contact with them.
We hiked back down the trail and went into the mask museum. Chichicastenango is known for its mask-making. While we were in the museum admiring the various masks, a group of boys emerged in the courtyard wearing fancy beaded costumes. We had just read about this dance the night before. The boys shook maracas and danced around to music which was playing over a loudspeaker. They wore pink masks which were supposed to represent Spaniards. This is known as the Dance of the Conquest. Soon another boy dressed as a bull emerged. The bull pawed at the ground and the Spaniard acted as a bullfighter. He waved a flag and the bull ran through it several times. The bull was so into his performance that he almost lost his footing and fell down.The bull eventually gored the Spaniard and the Spaniard fell. The boys collected tips at the end of the performance. As we were leaving we saw a small building which at one time was used as a sauna for women when giving birth.
On the way back toward the market we stopped at Moreria Santo Tomas, a small mask shop. The front room was full of brightly covered carved wooden masks. The next room contained some older, more rustic masks. Everyone else in the group left to go to the market but we stayed and looked around waiting to find the perfect mask for us. The woman working there told us "Mas" (more) and led us into a third room around the corner off the courtyard. When we still didn't find anything we wanted to buy she said "Mas" again and led us into a fourth, dingy, smoke-stained room. This looked like the room that would contain exactly what we were looking for. There were several small altars and the walls were covered with older masks. We chose one of a jaguar with red glass eyes. She dusted out the mask (although we still noticed a small spider in one of the eyeholes) and wrapped it up in newspaper for us.
Happy with our discovery we finally headed back to the market. We saw a woman embroidering beautiful huipiles and noticed she was wearing one similar to the one I had liked in the store yesterday. While admiring it she pointed to one that she had for sale. I tried it on and was very happy that this one actually fit over my head. After a bit of haggling over the price we eventually got the huipile for a price we were willing to pay. After wandering around the market for a little more time, and realizing we had bought all we wanted for today, we went to an internet place and paid Q3 for 20 minutes of access. It turned out to be fruitless, however, as Internet Explorer crashed when we hit "send" on our email. We bought a few postcards, and headed back to the hotel for 12:15, the time we were supposed to meet up with the group.
The marimba band was playing on the second floor overlooking the courtyard. There were macaws and parrots on perches in the courtyard. The hotel was packed with people for the lunch buffet. We paid Q93 for the buffet, (expensive by Guatemalan standards, but still cheap when viewed in U.S. terms) which included lots of local dishes made with pork, beef, chicken, etc. We even tried tongue. I didn't eat too much as my stomach was still feeling a bit iffy and we had a bus ride in our future. I did have a piece of chocolate cake from the pastry tray, though. We relaxed in the room for a while and met in the lobby at 2:15.
Craig changed some U.S. currency in the lobby, and we boarded the bus. While waiting for the rest of the group to get to the bus, some cute little girls were signalling to us from their family's market stall. They were asking for quetzales but Craig and I don't feel that is appropriate behavior to teach them. Instead we opened the window and passed out some pens and notebooks. When their mother saw the notebooks she became very excited and asked if she could have one as well. We ran out of pens and one little girl didn't get one. We pointed out that another girl (around age 4 or 5) had two, and that she could share. At this suggestion the girl with the two pens smiled and hid both pens behind her back, running to hide. We took a photo of the girls.
We rode for about an hour on the bus to Panajachel, also known as "Gringotenango" due to the number of foreigners who reside there. Andre had some business to attend to so we stopped briefly at his office, and then the bus continued on past two very ugly high rises on the shores of Lake Atitlan, a caldera of 50 square miles. We got to the dock and split up into two small boats. As we pulled away we noticed Andre still on the dock. This is where Andre left us for the day, with the promise that he would be back in the morning. The lake was very choppy. Margaret, Marcia. Tracy, and Marsha were on our boat with us. Marcia was afraid she'd be seasick, but she was a very good sport and when she realized she would be fine, she ended up standing at the front of the boat doing a Titanic impression.
After 30 minutes, the boats docked at the Hotel Bambu. The grounds were beautiful and very picturesque. We saw hummingbirds and heard many other birds. Our room was #6, on the second floor of the building with a lake view. We got settled in and then headed to the girls' rooms (dubbed the "chicken shack" for its dormitory style and the fact that it was set way back from the lake). We chatted for a while and then headed to the bar for drinks. They seemed to be out of every beer that Craig ordered except Gallo (though later on some Moza would miraculously appear for other guests). I got a glass of white wine and the girls ordered a bottle of red. We sat outside on the patio overlooking the lake and the San Pedro volcano. We had lots of laughs. At various times the other members of our group who were eating inside (Gerry and Judy, Marsha, Beverly and David) stopped by to chat with us and see what all the laughing was about. We never ate dinner but we did have some nachos and guacamole. Craig had a few more beers and I had another glass of wine. Eventually the girls did the chicken dance in honor of the chicken shack. We stayed outside laughing and chatting until 9:30, at which point we headed back to our rooms for some sleep.