Winter Break in Central America travel blog

The First Market

Agua Volcano

Ruins of a monestary

Street scene

La Merced Concepcion (New Cathedral)

Inside the cathedral

Paper mosaic

Fuego Volcano

Floats used in processions

Me and Agua


Fountain Mermaid

"Old" cathedral

Ice cream and cell phones

Inside the cathedral

Maya mask in corner

The Many Shades of Jade

Fruit vendor

Non-Tourist market

Ice cream seller getting a shoe shine

Street clown

Hotel Courtyard

Fresh Water

The many shades of jade


More dancers!

Up at 8:00 – at last a long sleep! Turned on the hot water to make sure it was running and it was, so shaved and when I got in the shower… no hot water. Seems I just missed it. Washed my hair anyway because it was quite chilly in the room – about 65 – and no heater!

Down to breakfast and had a nice fried egg with hot sauce, some pineapple and papaya, some refried beans, toast, jelly and a little pile of mayonnaise on the plate. I have no idea why. I saw Ana and Adrianna just as I was finishing. Back up to the room and unpack stuff to try to sort through it – way too much. Then off to meet the guide.

The courtyard in the hotel is quite nice – a wagon and lots of vines. Same style as most of the places in the city. Bare walls facing the street then a nice plaza inside. We met up with Ernie and he started talking about the town. Old capital of the country moved because of frequent earthquakes. Now mainly a tourist town.

Wandered the streets to the new cathedral – built in the 1700s and largely undamaged since. It is quite elaborate with cocoa pods as part of its imagery. Outside were some “giants” used for various celebrations. Inside was not as ornate as the cathedrals in Peru with only the alter being in gold. There were several images – one of Jesus and another of Mary – that are paraded through the streets each year. Jesus is carried by 120 men. Mary is carried by 50 women, but they all wear high heels.

There were also lots of mosaics on the columns and they were all made of paper and varnished. Good effect too. There was also a nativity set up which will only be taken down on February 2nd, a special day where historically Jesus was presented at the temple for the first time.

As we went out of the building the church bells began to chime – it was calling attention to an eruption of Fuego – within sight of the town. Only a little puff of smoke but still. The other volcano in Guatemala is having a serious eruption with lava flows – Hans and Ema are there…

Then we walked down the main street which is blocked off to traffic on Sundays. A nice arch over the road (a passage from one side to the other). Lots of activity – including the marimba players – the national instrument of Guatemala. We finally got to the main city square which is like all Spanish cities – Cathedral on one side, Government on another, military on another, and merchants on the fourth. The cathedral was wrecked in an earthquake, the military place is being renovated, so only the government and merchants are left. The fountain in the square was also quite interesting. The water comes from the nipples of mermaid’s breasts.

Into the old cathedral they were holding mass, so we went around the side and into the ruins of the place. It was first built in 1546 then destroyed in 1688, rebuilt and destroyed in 1773, rebuilt then destroyed again in the 1970s. You’d think they’d learn… There was still an underground portion – the crematory – and a couple of passages, but all deemed too dangerous to go through today. There was also some strange things about the cathedral – one of the niches had a statue of Pope John Paul II in it and on one corner there was a Maya mask incorporated into the building.

Then we went to the Jade Factory and spent about two minutes learning how jade was processed then ten minutes of a sales job on how this was the best stuff… Same as in China. Then to the Women’s Cooperative Fabric Center – which turned out to be a bunch of stalls where they were selling the same stuff that was for sale on the street. Quite disappointing.

All over town there were Maya women selling woven fabric – everything from bracelets to table cloths. Almost all had cell phones (15 million people in the country, 22 million cell phones). There were many fruit vendors as well. And a woman selling jars of bubble stuff. And plastic lizards you could walk with a stick. And ice cream. And shoe shines.

After the tour was over I went off by myself to check out the town. Went to the local folks market at the edge of town – everything from bananas to refrigerators for sale. Most folks just going about their business. I found several other tourist markets, some with the same stuff but some that had very unique things. One place was actually a cooperative in that each item (with some exceptions) actually had someone’s name on it and a price – so the same thing could cost 15 quitzels and right next to it the same thing for 30.

Wandering the town I got to see the horse carriages, the various bands (marimbas quite common), people playing flutes, a street clown who attracted quite a large crowd, and flocks of tourists – many college age but quite a few people who looked like they were retired. I made a couple additional purchases as well.

Took my loot back to the room and realized that I did not have room for it all – so it was throw a bunch of stuff away or… so I bought a new suit case – one that was woven by the local Maya’s. Rather bright but nice! Went to a bunch of places before I found one I liked.

Then off again – found a consignment shop for the locals – lots of stuff way less expensive than at the other shops – especially masks. Bought way too many plus a bunch of other stuff. Then back to the room to try to sort things out.

Started to write up the trip journal but stopped to chat with Minna a bit. Then met up with the group and we all went out to a last supper together at a very nice restaurant. There was a marimba band and then some masked dancers came to perform. They invited the audience to dance as well so up I went! Great fun. I also had an asparagus stuffed chicken and a chocolate cream thing for desert. Nice meal.

Back at the room. Now to check in with the airline, pack, and get ready. Breakfast at 8:30 and shuttle at 9:00. Flight leaves at 1:50 and an hour to the airport – so all is well.

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