Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Chichi: an impressively colourful market!
Chichicastenango (a town in the El Quiche' department of Guatemala) means "Tenango"= the place of "Chichi" = nettles, a very flowery tree. In fact the town is known just as Chichi. El Quiché is mainly populated by a large community of indigenous Maya who leave all over on the mountains surrounding Chichi. The visit of this town is definitely worth it only on its market days: Thursday and Sunday. It starts very early in the morning between 7 and 8 am and lasts until 4 pm when the stalls slowly start to get dismantled. The market stalls, mainly hand-made with wooden sticks and ropes only, are found along both sides of the back-streets and the biggest section is found in the main plaza between the two white churches facing one another (see picture of one church below).
The best time to shop is in the afternoon after 1pm when the majority of the tourists, who arrive with an organized tour, have just left and therefore it is easier to get better deals :o) . Bargaining is part of the game and the latest you'll do it better prices you'll get!
The market gets very crowded. There aren't only market stalls but also individuals (usually the poorest indigenous, mainly kids and old women) who desperately try to sell you stuff on the road by following and hassling you all the time... sometimes can be very irritating! While walking around, a little 10-year old kid named Juan, didn't leave me and my sister alone for more than two hours. Initially he badly wanted to sell us a book mark. Then after 30 mins he gave up and decided to stick around with us until the end of the day. He was a very calm and peaceful boy and terribly sweet that we became friends and adopted him as a private consultant for shopping :o). He told us that in the future he would like to work with tourists. He honestly could fit perfectly in this job but I have suggested him to smile more often. In fact the kids I saw at the market tend to adopt a victim attitude talking with a very annoying singing voice. Most of them keep demanding for 1Quetzal to get a tortilla or to go to school. I can suggest to any tourists who travel anywhere in the third world, to not offer money for nothing, at least buy from them a small little stupid object for a few Quetzales if you want to make them happy.
The 4-5 hours experience at the market is unforgettable! Hundreds of indigenous ladies and little girls wearing their typical self weaved huipiles (large T-shirt) are all over the places: some selling small accessories on the streets, others buying all kind of threads and other material to weave. The fascinating part of it are the endless combinations of colors in the textile... the whole market is an explosion of beautiful bright colors Your eyes will hardly stop to get amazed and everywhere you look, you'll see a new variation of colors Absolutely amazing! To give you an idea of the prices; I bought a bedspread for 150Q. (15 Euros), a tiny purse for 5Q., a cotton scarf for 60Q. and a medium size bag for 120Q.
Since I've arrived in the afternoon, I spent a night in Chichi in a OK looking place called El Salvador where I have paid together with my sister 55Q (about 5.5 Euros) for a twin-bed room with shared stinky toilets... I've no idea if there were any showers!
In the evening the streets get replaced by hundreds of food stalls mainly selling papas fritas y pollo dorado (french fries and fried chicken) and the usual tortilla snacks such as flautas, gorditas, tostadas, chile relleno etc. In the morning be prepared to inhale burning mountains of trash collected on the streets from the day before. This happen often especially in Guatemala and in the poorest regions of Mexico as well! There aren’t any recycling or rubbish collectors so people burn any kind of trash: plastic, paper, pet-bottle, light bulb, aluminium foil and more... gulp!