Our late night arrival in Guatemala went as planned and was without incident despite only 30 minutes to change planes in San Salvador. Upon arrival, I couldn't believe how much bigger and more modern the airport looked. In 13 years much has changed but we are hoping to find that the overall culture remains the same. On our van ride to the hotel we realized how much western culture has now influenced life here as we passed McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell. Very disappointing...
Today we traveled to Chichicastenago with our piloto/guía, Jairo. He's a really nice guy from just outside of Antigua and has an 11 year old daughter and a 2 year old son. He is very knowledgable about the history of the people and the governance of the different departments (the Guatemalan version of states) that we drove through on our 2.5 hour drive. He told us also about the agriculture, overall economy and pointed out some foods at roadside stands that were new to us.
As we got further out of the city we saw more and more families along the roadside waving. Apparently they do this in hopes that people will stop and give them candy or, I suspect, any other spare food one might have. We also saw the racing buses. Racing buses are soupped-up versions of school buses from the US and Canada that are now used for urban transport. They are often referred to by us as chicken buses. The reason for the
racing is that they are required to pay a set fee everyday plus the cost of their gas and maintainence. If they race to get the most passengers they make the most money. On the highway towards Chichi they put in speed bumps to slow down the rate of accidents and fatalities that result from these racing buses.
Once in Chichi we learned that it was the anniversary of Santo Tomás which meant there was an extra level of crazy by the main church. Chichi is the only city that has both a Mayan and a Catholic Church. Jairo explained to us how it was more
of an invasion than a conquest when the Spanish came in. Their plan was to convert the Mayans to Catholics and they thought this would be easy since the Mayans already believed in Gods. However it wasn't as easy as they thought since the Mayans weren't looking to give up their beliefs. That said, I n order to comply and not face persecution, many Mayans agreed to Catholicism in name only but continued practicing their own religion.
In a parallel vein, there were battling bands in front of the church. The loudest one made the stone ground below us shake and the other one we could hardly hear even when standing directly in front of the stage. They didn't quit though or even
seem bothered by the battling bands. They just accepted it and carried on with their own beat. There were a couple of dances going on as well. In one, the men were dressed in typical Mexican clothing and dancing with snakes in their hands. This costume was to remember the Mexicans that accompanied the Spaniards during the invasion. The other dance involved elaborate costumes with headdress and apparently the traditional tennis shoe. We were able to get a picture with one of the dancers as he was a friend of Jairo, who seemed to know people everywhere we went.
After a bit of an historical tour, Maia befriending a talking parrot, and some lunch, it was time to let the shopping begin. The girls picked up some instruments and a few other things, I got a couple
woven belts, and Dean just enjoyed looking around. Then we were off to Panajachel, about 1 hour more. Perfect for Dean to get a good nap in and for Jairo and I to have a nice discussion about religion, travel, and people around the world.
Upon arrival in Pana we checked in and Morgan and I went exploring while Maia searched for wifi and Dean finished his resting. Later our dinner was delicious and Morgan and I found a few more things that we just had to have.
Tomorrow a tour of some of the towns on the other side of Lake Atitlan.