After 15 journeys to Guatemala and after spending almost 3 years in Guatemala, I decided to visit the well-known Chichicastenango. The town, which is situated about 100km from the capital, located in the department of El Quiche, has unfortunately confirmed all my prejudices. My Guatemalan friends and acquaintances had also assured me, that the place offers nothing interesting.
HERE IS MY SUBJECTIVE, PERSONAL REPORT
First of all for the travel-guide readers:
All travel guides mention Chichicastenango with its market and the church, where mayan ceremonies are celebrated. Sometimes “Pascual Ab aj” (Pascal the stone), the rock on which outside the town ritual ceremonies take place, is mentioned.
Who wants to live out as a souvenir collector of textiles, masks and other folklore junk, should please do that. In my opinion, a visit to Chichi is completely unnecessary and redundant..
A tip to those who want not to skip Chichi:
Instead of booking for the price of currently $ 24, back and forth a tourist package on the shuttle from Antigua, you can alternatively easily go on your own to Chichi. Just spend 5 Quetzales for the bus from Antigua to Chimaltenango and on the Panamericana enter the next Camioneta (bus) to El Quiche (20 Quetzales).
- This saves 70 percent of the price you pay in Antigua.
- You are the master of your time. You can reach Chichi early in the morning. The buses return from about 7 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon towards Guatemala City. Depending on how it suits you, you can stay two hours or 8 hours. In the tourist shuttle one leaves at 7 o’clock in the morning and back at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and has to follow the group.
- You have close contact with the locals, you can chat in Spanish and you do not have to travel among other tourists.
- Usually you reach the place faster than with the tourist minibus. The bus line to Santa Cruz Quiche, which stops in Chichicastenango, is called Veloz Quichelense (the fast Quichelense). Noun et Omen. The drivers speed up like the crazy ones. At least the race through the serpentine route, where one breathes from time to time, is an experience.
WHY is Chichicastenango not worth the time?
- The first thing you see, when you enter the city center is a poster that points to the unmistakable “craft market” in three languages. The entire city center serves only one purpose: to sell something to the locals, but especially to the international visitors. So called typical, traditional art, craftsmenship and souvenirs. If you are visiting a market in Guatemala for the first time, you may be impressed. Anyone who knows other markets, is annoyed by the vendors, who appeal to you again and again.
- The prices may be a bit better than in Antigua, but you do not save much. Really cheap offers do not exist. Masks, paintings or textiles are cheaper to buy in the villages where they are made. Pictures for example in Comalapa.
- Any kind of flair and atmosphere that could emanate from the Maya ceremonies is stifled by commercialism. In front of the church on the edge of the market, the authorized guides are waiting. For your cash payment they gladly explain to you the meaning of everything.. The Guatemala expert already knows most things.
- If one realizes how quickly the young generation abandons the Maya language in favor of the Spanish (unfortunately), then it is hard to believe that the importance of the Mayan customs, in the midst of the professionally organized sellers, is still the same as a few years ago. The crowd of American and European tourists, who take over the town step by step, make it very clear: This is a tourist center. It CAN NOT BE MORE SCARING!
FORGET CHICHICASTENANGO !!! Anyone who believes that the “magic” of the Mayan culture is found here, probably has visions caused by an upset stomach from the bus ride!