Get me out of here!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
very small section of the market is in the Plaza itself.
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.
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
The Adventurer's Guide to
Don’t go to
Guatemala without this book! Take advantage of what we know. Click
market bustles inside.
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
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
arrived on the other side of the obstruction a bit
pleased and surprised.
Different styles of bananas, heaps of produce
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.
myriad of Maya patterns
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.
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.
yourself, when was the last time you took a break from
your errands and sat down on a curb in the shade?
in a row, vendors line up to sell produce.
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.
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
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.
should have priced them when I was here.
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
by the banana leaf.
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
found much jade, tiger eye and silver for sale in these
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.
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.
mango for baby girl
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.
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
I am purchasing some nuts - simple protein for travel
elementary scale of two bowls, a weight and a middle
handle is in the left of this photo on the table top.
skill of the Guatemalan women's embroidery put me in
awe. The colors of the skeins of thread were vibrant and
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.
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
is a job I would not want to have!
Panajachel is the city shown in the left of this photo
of Lake Atitlan.
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
more information, stories and photos of Guatemala,