Living Culture

Only in Guatemala the world was created in 23 different ways. There are 23 languages and 23 different words for God. Here,  women using magic threads of every color of the rainbow spin,  weave and embroider more than 500 different native costumes. Many fertility goddesses bring light and strength to the flowers, the stars, and also to the beautiful creatures of the jungle in Guatemala. People still worship the Sun, father of all harvests, who is remembered in some 23 different rituals.

Every God in Guatemala has his place, because the spirit that dwells in the profoundly mystic hearts of its people swings gently between the sweet smoke of the copal incense and the early morning canticles of the Ave María. But whether from gilded altar pieces in small churches, or vegetation choked pyramids wrapped in the fragrance of incense and flowers, all prayers ascend to the Creator. In exquisite altar pieces the comforting image of Jesus and his Mother watch over their Guatemalan children. Out in the wild, in the jungle where the ocelot lives, hidden forces await to see that nothing happens to the sacred Ceiba tree, because nothing moves the knowledge of the lord of the wild.

During holy week, the day of All saint´s and the feast days of the patron saint that protected the towns, are spiritual, joyful occasions, for the descendents of the ancient Maya who sing and make colorful offerings.

In Guatemala beauty pursues the traveler at every corner. Quichés, Mams, Tzutujils and Cakchiquels, men with elated heart, work with malleable damp clay, powerful jade or wood from the forests. The concepts colors and shapes they produce in their ancient art are astonishing. On simple backstrap or pedal looms, the women weave history with their wool and cotton threads creating huipiles and other fine textiles.

ChichicastenangoThursdays and Sundays are market days in Chichicastenango. People are nearby areas bring their fruits, flowers and seeds, handicrafts, dresses and shawls to sell. The day before stores are set up amid much laughter and chatter. Little by little the market surrounds St. Tomas Church like a labyrinth. At sundown, the rituals begin. Prayers are said while incense sends the messages up to their beloved gods.

Mass is held on Sunday morning with the pleasant aroma of burning incense. When the area is perfumed, the Maya officiator begins his ritual over a fire and a reverent hush invades the atmosphere. The women enter the church with folded shawls covering their heads, the marimba accompanies the songs, while the parishioners pray and small candles shine in the aisles where spirituous liquor and rose petals have been scattered. At the same time, in the narrow streets of the town, different Cofradias (Brother hoods) appear and proudly make themselves heard.

It was here in 1700, where Fray Francisco Ximénez founded the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Quichés, that describes the origins of the world and the superhuman deeds of their main gods.

Chichicastenango is a colorful place with the sound of different dialects, with different articles for sale: impeccably handmade handicrafts, singular clothing, exotic tasting food and praises to a non-forsaking god.

San Antonio AguascalientesThe town is just 15 minutes away from the city of Antigua Guatemala, its known for its handmade weaving, a tradition dating back to colonial times.

Life in San Antonio Aguascalientes keeps pace to the weavers whose hands give shape to huipiles, tzutes, tapestries and small rooms of traditional design and bright colors, made with the skill of their ancestors.

The work on backstrap looms, weaving the threads with the help of a primitive shuttle, while the wind inspires their designs.

In San Antonio Aguascalientes, they also make straw dolls, huge kites, paintings by different techniques and wooden masks, used for many Guatemalan native dances.

Antigua GuatemalaLa Antigua Guatemala was the capital of the kingdom of Guatemala during colonial times. Today, extraordinary palaces, convents, hermitages and churches are harmoniously integrated in its architecture. This city was declared Patrimony of Cultural Heritage by UNESCO

In Antigua Guatemala, Easter Week is solemnly celebrated. Local Catholics, wearing purple and white habits, march solemnly in processions with revered images on huge portable platforms carried on their shoulders. Each one of these portable platforms is supported by up to 100 men, who walk through the streets in homage of Christ´s sacrifice. Carpets of flowers and colored sawdust are created by people along processional routes. They serve as a gesture of worship and as greeting to the passing images.

Santiago SacatepéquezHappy are the death in Santiago Sacatepéquez because the living remember them with honor and bring them offerings. Yes, in this town the ancestors are venerated and respected without limits. Because of this in All Saint´s Day, the people of Santiago Sacatepéquez meet at the cemetery. Elaborate dishes, desserts and the dearly departed´s favorite drinks adorn their graves for their posthumous pleasure. The living may also eat the meal, once they have fulfilled the corresponding salutations and prayings.

Do join in this celebration, where life is valued in the light of death. You must come early in the morning so you can get to know the local handicrafts and beautiful traditions of this town.

LivinsgstonThe flavor of the Caribbean flows through the streets of this small town, populated by the Garifuna Afrocarribeans with a mix culture, which is interesting and exotic. Long time ago Livingston was the port of departure for the fragrant coffee of Las Verapaces. Today, it is a fishing village full of wooden houses, balconies and sandy streets.

Local celebrations include Easter Week with a representation of Christ´s Passion, and the fiestas of San Isidro Labrador and the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12. Here ceremonies are celebrated with the notable Afrocaribbean culture.

Totonicapán Here lived the inheritors of color and form. In fact, here in Totonicapán, the mestizo art which was born from the fusion between the Spanish and the Maya, has truly flourished. Glazed or painted ceramics, textiles made on foot looms, toys and cajetas, many colored boxes, all testify to the mastery of artisans who live there.

Also here you can find the famous “Ponchos” of Momostenango, artistic heavy wool blankets or rug woven on large foot looms. Close there are two more towns: San Francisco el Alto, which has a picturesque market every Friday, and San Andrés Xecul, whose church has a polychrome facade resembling the weave of their huipil.

Todos Santos Cuchumatán The men and women of Todos Santos Cuchumatán know how to dress. Their clothes are elegant, bold, original and have esthetic color combinations: This land is like the strong combinations of their clothing.

The men wear loose necked red shirts and white cloth pants, with large red stripes, which are black at the back, like the capes they wear in cold weather. This rather striking ensemble is set off with a handkerchief tied around the head and around the straw hat. The women wear beautiful huipiles with crimson embroidery that perfectly matches their men´s outfits.

The famous horse race held every November 1 st. in Todos Santos Cuchumatán has a spiritual and religious significance. There are no winners or losers only contestants who race horseback riding for hours or as long as the riders hold out. The day before everyone attends a vigil at the local cemetery. At the end of the race, riders and spectators mingle in the Central Plaza for the Dance of the Conquest.