Peter and Terry's Adventures
10th Feb 2012 - 14th Feb 2012
Tour de Pueblos
On Saturday, we took a tour of some of the villages surrounding Antigua. The city itself has apparently only 3000 inhabitants, but including the surrounding 23 villages brings the total to nearly 30,000. The tour began at our house, where we were picked up by a private van with driver and guide. Asking whether there would be any markets on the tour, Fausto, our guide, said the best one was at Santa Maria de Jesus, about 15 km up the side of Volcano Agua. So we headed towards it, but unfortunately about half way there we came across the scene of an accident - a bus had rolled onto its side (no one was seriously hurt) on a very tight and steep corner. Apparently the brakes had failed... The passengers, with the aid of a truck, were trying to right the bus, and the people and the truck made it impossible for us to get by, So we went instead to San Juan del Obispo, which overlooks the valley in which Antigua is set. Antigua sits on a flat plain surrounded by three major volcanos, and Fausto explained that this is the bottom of an ancient lake, and that the whole valley is a big caldera.
Each of the villages we visited had a very large church, once a cathedral, but now just a parish church. The populations are mostly Mayan, speaking one of the 23 Mayan dialects, with Spanish as a second language. The Mayans worship in the churches, but are seldom actually Christians, and still worship the Mayan Gods.
Later on we returned up the road towards Santa Maria de Jesus, and found the bus had been righted and the way was clear. We stopped just outside the local market, which was much smaller than the one in Antigua, but carried the same local food and produce. The church was occupied with the start of a wedding, with the men on the right and women in their brightly coloured shawls on the left. Just as we entered a band started up, the priest arrived, and the happy couple were somewhere nearby. Outside there were some fireworks let off which startled us but no one else, apparently. Did we say that the Guatemalans really love their fireworks?
Outside, the local kids spotted the only gringos in town and lined up to be photographed. We have learned to be cautious about taking pictures of individuals, but it was obvious they wanted to be in the picture. John gave a few 10 centavo coins to them - all the change he had! These coins are .10 of a Quetzal, so worth just over one cent, and are difficult to spend. Believe it or not we also get the occasional 5 centavo piece in change!
Then we went to San Pedro las Huertas, where there is a large communal laundry area. A swimming pool sized pond has individual tubs set into it for washing clothes. Some of the nearby villages do not have any water, so the women bring the clothes here for washing, then pack them up and haul them home for drying. Here we also went to a local Jade factory and had a short tour by one of the seven brothers who own it and are the artisans. It looked really primitive compared to the jade factory in Antigua, but the showroom had a number of very elegant pieces in it, and Peggy bought a necklace with individual pieces of the various colours of jade, ranging from white through blue and green to black.
Next stop was Ciudad Vieja, one of the early capitals of Guatemala. Another huge cathedral, with an inscription saying that it was established in 1524. This church has not been standing since then as much of the whole area was destroyed in a major earthquake in 1534. In spite of the name, everything here was very new!
Then on to San Antonio Aguas Calientes. Unfortunately the hot springs are no more, as the water channels were closed up in the earthquake of 1976, but the name remains. The highlight here was a market run by the women weavers of the city. They are accomplshed in embroidery and weaving on the backstrap loom. Many wonderful colours and patterns. We bought a couple of things - see the pictures. They are also talented in high pressure salesmanship, and have enough English to be very pushy!
Then back to Antigua and lunch at Tartines...
Peggy and I were keen to go back to San Antonio and shop some more, but we thought it might be a good idea to go to the local artisans marketplace first for comparison. Good thing, as some identical items were quite a bit less expensive than in San Antonio. I got a couple of table coverings and a set of brightly coloured placemats.
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