We had a two and a half hour van ride to Chichicastenango (from now on, just Chichi!) from Antigua. Chichi has Guatemala’s largest “Sunday” market. On Sundays, everyone goes to church, and while they are at their church in town, they visit a Sunday market to do their weekly shopping. It is a festive occasion; besides worshipping and shopping, there is a whole lot of socializing going on. The ride to Chichi itself was pure entertainment. Whole families were out in their Sunday best, heading for churches and smaller Sunday markets in the towns we passed. They were out walking, waiting for – or crowded into – brilliantly painted school buses, or jammed into “tuktuks” – motorized covered bikes. Some men were in white shirts and black pants, women were wearing colorful embroidered shirts and skirts, and the little girls in their ribbons and braids were just too cute. You would not believe how many people can stand in the pack of a pickup.
All manner of things are sold at the Sunday market. There is not only produce, but raw chickens, dead and alive. Ladies making tortillas with white, yellow or black corn, and cooking them over a fire. Colorful booths full of traditional clothing, table covers, all kinds of woven fabric goods, home goods, anything you could imagine. And in the middle of a tightly packed crowd, there may be a religious procession making its way through the market. Guatemalans like processions.
Chichicastenango has one of the largest Mayan populations in Guatemala. Our guide for the day was a Mayan named Sebastian. He took us to the church of St. Thomas, which was part Catholic and part Mayan, built in the 1500’s. The Mayans had their candles lit on the floor down the center aisle. Outside, they would light fires for worship: sugar first, then bundles of sticks, corn, 4 eggs north south east and west, and candles stuck in the coals. Many market stalls were selling the necessities for the fires.