Sunday, we traveled across the Guatemalan highlands to one of the largest open-air markets in the country in a town called Santo Tomás Chichicastenango.  Saint Thomas is the town’s patron saint, and many of the boys’ are given Tomás as a first name.  The rest of the town’s name is Mayan and means “the place of the Chichicaste plant.”  Chichicaste being a poisonous hedge ivy with tiny hairs on its leaves that cause intense itching when touched.

We didn’t touch any, so we can’t speak to that aspect.  But we did love the town.  It’s one of the two sites Fred and I got to see 3 1/2 years ago, and he wanted to be sure we brought the boys to see it this time, too.

A number of tourism groups take buses to Chichicastenango, so if you’re looking for a well-traveled road, a place to barter for some great authentic (or tourist-y) souveniers, and a place that’s accustomed to (and eager to host!) foreigners, this is the one for you.  Market days are Sunday and Thursday every week.

Scenes from Chichicastenango:

Hills Surrounding Chichicastenango, Guatemala
Maya homes in the surrounding hillsides.

 

Chichicastenango Guatemala Street
The road into the central part of town.

 

Maya Family on the way to Chichicastenango Market
 Maya family heading to the market.  Some families start out before daylight and walk hours to get there.

 

Iglesia de Santo Tomas Cathedral Chichicastenango, Guatemala
Iglesia Santo Tomás, built by the Spanish in the 1540′s on the top of a pre-Columbian Maya temple.  Maya priests and Shamans share the space with the Catholic priests (they take turns holding Mass and then peforming Maya rituals).
 Steps of Iglesia de Santo Tomas Cathedral Chichicastenango, Guatemala

 

The Indoor Produce Market
 Produce Market Chichicastenango
Sleeping swaddled baby Chichicastenango
Did you catch the sleeping baby?

 

The Outdoor Market 
Chichicastenango Market 2

Chichicastenango Market Stall

Chichicastenango Market

 Guatemalan Art Shop

Guatemalan Art

 

Fred's Turtle
A little girl followed Fred around for 10 minutes trying to convince him to buy this stuffed turtle.  He didn’t need it or want it.  Those of you who work with Fred can now visit this little gem in his office.  :)

 

Chichicastenango Saints Parade

Chichicastenango Saints Day Parade
On occasion of a saints’ festival overlapping market day, congregants from the local church strike up a parade right down the aisles of the market itself.  Setting off fireworks right up into the air as they go.  Startling at first but talk about getting right into the cultural experience!