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.

Adventure

Located in San Martin Zapotitlán, cheap Retalhuleu, the Xocomil, an aquatic park, is recreational place for both children and adults. Its construction is a replica of Mayan building, including temples, sanctuaries, palaces and stelae, there is over-abundant vegetation attending over 77,300 square meters, and accommodation for up to 6,000 visitors.

Adventure-lovers know that the Earth’s wonders are hidden in secret spots of the planet. The adventure starts with the search of these different, exciting places, which are full of vitality and life. Guatemala spells adventure because its jungles, plains and mountains, its caves, rivers and lakes, which hold wondrous creatures. Wonderful stories and ancestral customs renew mystery of the universe.

As you penetrate the noisy jungle and walk along a clearing lined with scented creepers and orchids that perfume the treetops, looking for howler monkeys, toucans and long-tailed quetzals, you experience something unexplainable.

It is as if orchids knew that below them lies the jaguar, stalking in the thicket or asleep on the boughs of the sacred ceiba. Guatemala’s volcanoes challenge climbers to enter the clouds, enjoy the heights and be surprised by the humid, lilac afternoons. In Guatemala, there is an ancient message protected by underground caves and the sound of the bird’s eternal song of the Giver of Life. Swift turbulent rivers beckon you to go canoeing, while calm placid streams invite you to look and enjoy their colorful fish.

Guatemala has something to share with both experts and amateurs, with anyone who enjoys life´s adventures.

Windsurfing

The wind has transformed Guatemalan water into a sportsman paradise. The breezes here are cool and gentle. So make it a point to go to Lakes Atitlan and Izabal or the Rio Dulce, where you can enjoy your favorite sport. In Rio Dulce, amid the jungle, you´ll hear the birds, and maybe fathom the legend of the crocodile men who took refuge in the warmth of this place, hidden from curious eyes.

Canoeing

If you like speeding over water, do not fail to take a whitewater raft trip on the Rio La Pasión. You can also navigate the Chiquibul river, the enormous, Usumacinta river in Petén, or risk the hair-raising rapids of the Rio Cahabón, in Alta Verapaz. Specialized travel agencies offer packages and excursions lasting from one day to one month.

Hiking

Traces of primitive man can be followed as you walk along Guatemala’s roads and trails, Guatemala’s valleys, mountains, jungles and plains provide magnificent scenery and a rich assortment of flora and fauna. In every corner of the country, there are unforgettable places perfect for walking, that would please any hiker. You can follow the course of the rivers or go around the edge of the lakes. For long hikes you can camp out and continue the next day. For short hikes of only a few hours, make sure to follow the road between Panajachel and Santa Catarina Palopó as you will have a splendid view of the volcanoes and hills around lake Atitlán and beautiful surrounding villages.

Bird watching and sport fishing

Guatemala has a wide variety of birds and there is great pleasure in just watching their flight and listening to their songs. There is no better place than the Guatemalan jungles or forests for bird watching. The Guatemalan Pacific Ocean is rich in variety of fish and is rated by experts as on of the best conserved fishing grounds in the world. These waters are home to red snapper, sailfish, tarpon, bass and other species. The rivers and lakes of Petén, the Rio Dulce, Lake Izabal, or the rivers in Alta Verapaz are other good fishing sites.

Cycling

If you enjoy fresh air, the countryside, and small town, cycling is hard to beat in Guatemalan roads, paths and highlands. You can enjoy a bit of everything: the freedom of the plains, mountains, forests and jungles, blending with enchanting colonial or indigenous towns.

Visits to caves and grottoes

In Guatemala, an underground water system has formed incredibly beautiful caves. Caves-lovers will be enchanted, exploring the innermost recesses of this land. In Santa Elena, Petén, underground paths lead into huge caverns vaulted like Gothic cathedrals, some even 40 meters high. The stalagmites on their cave floors stretch up, while the stalactites reach down to meet them, competing with each other to see which one grabs the other first.

The Jobitizinaj Caves are more plain but no less exciting to visit, since they lack artificial lighting. Therefore explorers must carry lamps and flashlights.

In Alta Verapaz, the Lanquin Caves, are the habitat to scores of blind fish. These caves are beautiful as are those La Candelaria, both having to me toured by boat along the underground river.

Hang gliding

With its clear skies, Guatemala is a great place to practice hang gliding. If you decide to glide over Lake Atitlán you will see, as the eagle does, the three volcanoes, Tolimán, San Pedro and Atitlán. These magnificent guardians of the landscape, stand watch, from the horizon, over the ravines where the greens color the earth up to its edges. Guatemala´s skies are clear and breezy, perfect for participating in competitions or learning to hang glide in Panajachel.

Mountaineering

It seems that in Guatemala, the earth has embraced the sky and has covered itself with tall and powerful volcanoes. The mountains are also ideal or climbing and mountaineering.

In this country there are two giants: The Tajumulco, the highest volcano in Central America, at 4,200 m. above sea level. Both are in the department of San Marcos and are easy to climb to view the magnificent sunrise.

Tolimán volcano has twin-peaks on its summit and reaches 3,158 m. above sea level. However, it presents greater technical challenges than the others and the ascent takes six hours. You can spend the night on the summit so it is advisable to take a sleeping bag, warm clothes and sufficient provisions.

The San Pedro volcano can be climbed with relative ease. If you begin your ascent at dawn, you can reach the clouds by midday.

The Atitlán volcano, situated beside the Lake of the same name, rises to 3,860 m. above sea level, and takes a whole day to climb. The effort is rewarded by a wonderful panoramic view from the summit.

If you want to take excellent photographs and spend the night in a crater where there is shelter for 30 people, then do not miss the Agua Volcano (or Hunapú) whose 3,776 m. above sea level make it a giant, of great interest to experts and beginners.

Another interesting volcano and the one most visited, given its proximity to Guatemala city, is Pacaya. It has an altitude of 2,252 m. above sea level and is active. Its constant eruptions and streams of lava create frightening but fascinating landscapes. Excursions to this seemingly angry volcano must be mad in groups and with a guide.

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