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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Sololá Indigenous Maya Market

 

Sololá Laguna Atitlan, Guatemala

(Pronounced: Soh-loh-LA, La-GOO-nah Ah-teet-LAHN, Gwah-te-MAH-lah)
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Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Sololá lies along an ancient Maya trade route between the hot Pacific beach lands and the chilly mountain highlands of Guatemala. All the traders meet here in this Maya town for Friday's Market Day, one of the highland's best.

You can walk the 9 km up the mountainside from Panajahcel, but we decided to take the bus.

We spent 3Q's each for another hair-raising, 15 minute bus ride to this remarkable Maya market. Taking the turns far too quickly for my comfort, I was grateful to leave this packed sardine can!

 

Get me out of here!

We had similar experiences with bus rides in Ecuador with narrow, winding roads and sheer drops into oblivion. As always, I'm happy to have my own two feet on the ground at our destination!

Sololá gets its name from a form of a Pre-Columbian name, T'zolojy'a. Almost all residents of Sololá are Kaqchikel Maya and the town's population is about 80,000.

 

Guatemala is known for its weavings.

The wide plaza in front of the cathedral comes alive on market day. Buyers and sellers from a dozen surrounding villages all in colorful traje indigena (native dress) arrive here to take advantage of the size of the crowds and the money changing hands. This market sees few tourists.

Perfect.

The woman above was not supposed to be selling her weavings in the open Plaza, but instead was required to have a stall inside. Still, trade will take place anywhere.

 

Friendly Maya women in hand woven skirts and embroidered huipiles. Cans of cola sit alongside a stack of freshly made corn tortillas - the present day world meeting one of ancient practices.

The traditional styles, patterns and colors used by each Maya village was originally devised by the Spanish colonists to distinguish one village from another. Their skirts, called cortes or refagos, are pieces of woven cloth 7 to 10 meters long wrapped around their bodies.

 

A very small section of the market is in the Plaza itself.

Only a few cities in Guatemala have parallel Indigenous and Latino governments ruling the people who live there, and  Sololá is one of Guatemala's largest Maya towns. 

 

Wildly patterned and bright woven cloth make up this man's traditional shirt, pants and tzutes, the woven cloth about his hips.

 

The Central Plaza

Benches to sit, well-tended bushes and flowers, a small gazebo, walking paths and pole lamps to light the way in evening hours make this clean Plaza welcoming. Generally, Plazas are gathering places for families and friends to meet, and a convenient area for markets.

The plaza is jumping this Saturday with music that a DJ plays and with his microphone he makes announcements from the Gazebo.

The Adventurer's Guide to Guatemala

Don’t go to Guatemala without this book! Take advantage of what we know. Click here

The market bustles inside.

Balls of moist corn dough are slap-slap-slapped into flatter rounds and these fresh tortillas of white, yellow and blue corn are placed on the hot grill. Large bowls are filled with masa or what Maya call q'em and is considered to be food of the gods. Tortillas are eaten at every meal, and the making of the dough is a substantive part of every Maya woman's day.

Inside the market was so packed with people, baskets, and food items that traffic was at a standstill at any corner. Turning was nearly impossible, as was getting through. One made it to the next location more by mooshing yourself into the direction you wanted to go, rather than pushing. The living stream of humanity bent or swayed accordingly, and

POP!

You arrived on the other side of the obstruction a bit pleased and surprised.

 

Different styles of bananas, heaps of produce

This is the time when it pays to have a refrigerator in your hotel room. It's hard to pass up these tropical delights for breakfast, snacks or dessert after dinner.

You can buy everything here in these markets: music, avocados, machetes, beads, cloth, embroidered blouses, fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat and chicken. Even hot food ready to eat.

 

A myriad of Maya patterns

The woman's huipile on the left is a mixture of colored lace and hand embroidery. This man is in traditional dress also with his tsutes around his waist and woven bag hanging from his shoulder. Ladies use their kaperraj to carry their groceries home.

 

Humanity is the same all over the world.

Here you have a happy, proud mother, a curious baby, a suspicious woman and a distracted child.

Another thing I have come to appreciate and never think twice about anymore, is people sitting on the curbs of streets. This is more common than I can tell you, but we almost never see that in the States.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you took a break from your errands and sat down on a curb in the shade?

 

All in a row, vendors line up to sell produce.

Cactus paddles, radishes, beans and banana leaves are being sold by these women. The bowls sitting beside the pile of banana leaves is a functional scale these women use for items not purchased singly or by the bunch, like beans, corn, and rice. They put weights on one side, and your purchase in the other bowl then hold the handle in the middle to be sure the weight is equal.

What you don't know about these women is that their blouses double as purses. Items such as cell phones, cash - and who knows what all - are put down the front of their blouses, kept close to their bodies for safe keeping. We would see women scrounging around the front of their blouses and pull out a small towel, or their cell phone or a wad of folded bills. If they can't feel what they are looking for, then they will pull the blouse out just a bit and look down into them - which presents a peculiar picture - and always made me smile.

 

Shopping for a skirt

These cortes or refagos are meters long, hand woven material that women utilize for their conventional dress. They must take a very long time to make and the fine workmanship is obvious.

I should have priced them when I was here.

 

In terms of grocery stores or small markets, Pana didn't offer much where we were staying, so I was happy to find this freshly made cheese. Fresh crema are in the small cups, stacks of cheese are separated by the banana leaf.

On the left in this photo you can see more closely the embroidered huipile and woven kaperraj tied at the neck that this lady is wearing. Her earrings are silver, and most likely the hanging stone is semiprecious.

We found much jade, tiger eye and silver for sale in these Guatemalan markets.

The woman in the upper right of the photo obscured a bit by my sun visor wears a tocoyal headdress. These are elaborate bands of cloth several meters long, wrapped about the head and often decorated with pom-poms, tassels, and silver ornaments. We see similar headdresses of cloth worn by women in Oaxaca and in Thailand as well.

 

Maya woven kaperraj

This photo gives you a closer look at the woven textiles of this Indigenous woman. The kaperraj is an all purpose cloth used for head coverings, baby slings, produce sacks, basket covers and more.

 

Sweet mango for baby girl

Even the small female children wear the cortes wrapped around them. Generally the young children wear them above the knee, and married women wear them at the knee and older women wear them past the knee. But here, their skirts all seem to be past knee length.

Notice the man's woven trousers.

 

Being foreigners, we were routinely charged more for simple items. Best to get a sense of pricing right away and feel free to bargain or walk away, finding a different vendor.

Here I am purchasing some nuts - simple protein for travel food.

The elementary scale of two bowls, a weight and a middle handle is in the left of this photo on the table top.

 

Handicraft heaven!

The skill of the Guatemalan women's embroidery put me in awe. The colors of the skeins of thread were vibrant and varied.

The woman on the left watches closely as she purchases bolas of thread, bought by weight. Some of the embroidered huipiles took a month or more to make. Here you see the two-bowl scale in use.

 

After the market we head on back to Pana. Here you see the 'handler' who works in concert with the bus driver, gathering passengers and their fares for the location they want to go. He collects bills, coins and makes change all while the bus is swerving from side to side on these precipitous cliffside roads. Seats are expected to fit 3 people each, meaning 6 people across if needed, and the handler squeezes himself through the mob in the aisle.

This is a job I would not want to have!

 

Panajachel is the city shown in the left of this photo of Lake Atitlan.

We leave Sololá's market and tomorrow we take a boat trip to several towns bordering the lake. One of the towns, Santiago, is the exact place where the Maya believe the world began. We will ask them what they think of their Maya End of the World prophesies when we see them!

For more information, stories and photos of Guatemala, click here

 

About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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