Market Day in Chichi
Chichicastenango Travel Blog› entry 6 of 9 › view all entries
May 25th, 2006 – by: pushirubiano
The center of the market is in the main square, with stalls spreading out to side streets as the day progresses. The middle part of the market is mostly geared toward the locals with lots of eating stalls and all kinds of groceries, fruit etc for sale.
The outer ‘rings’ of the market are more geared toward tourists. The selection is huge, textiles, masks, stone- and earthenware, statues of saints and Mayan deities, jewelry (esp.
Bartering, which I am horrible at, seems to be essential here. I just can’t bring myself to do it, but still, I when I told the lady selling the pillowcase that I liked, that I found it a bit expensive, I got it for half price without even asking. Probably even that price was way too expensive, but I consider it a contribution to a person who needs the money more than I do.
Frankly, I was expecting the market to be somewhat the same as the one in Otavalo, Ecuador, but I was a bit disappointed. Then again, maybe the dreary weather didn't help. Anyway, I decided to leave the market for what it was and do a little sightseeing anound the central Plaza instead.
I found the Santo Tomas church very interesting and impressive, esp. with the rituals surrounding it. It was built around 1540 and is situated at the eastern side of the main plaza, you can’t miss its whiteness above the colorful market stalls. This church is particularly interesting because it is a mixture of catholicism and ancient Maya beliefs.
The church was built upon an ancient mayan temple and if you’ve seen pictures of Mayan pyramids with their steps, you’ll recognize the steps in front of the church immediately. Also on these steps is an altar on which incense (copal) is burnt. You’ll see similar altars in front of the pyramids (temples) in Tikal and other Mayan sites.
On market day, the locals will offer flowers on the steps of the church, which makes a nice, colorful spectacle. You’ll also see the local religious leaders, the cofrades, on the steps, swinging their incense burners.
Warning: it is considered very bad form for a non-indigeno to walk on the steps in front of the church. These are reserved for worshipers. If you want to enter the church, use the side-entrance.
On the southern side of the market plaza is a small museum, which I visited mainly to hide from the rain. It proved mildly interesting, esp. the old pictures and the jade collection (the Rossbach-collection, called after a priest who worked here from 1895 till his death in 1944).
Finally, if you follow the road from the market square, past the big yellow Mayan Inn hotel (on your right hand) on a steep road, you’ll get to the colorful Campo Santo (meaning Holy Field) -cemetary, with its graves in the shape of little houses.
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