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If you gotta’ get away from la dolce vita at Panajachel, then Chichicastenango is where you start. It’s accessible by an easy day-trip from Panajachel, sardine express, or you can stay here—alone. When there’s no market, the place is empty—of tourists and locals! This was a revelation to me, that indigenous people would pour into a semi-urban area for markets and festivities, then disappear back into the countryside from where they came, just like they always have, confirming the role of ruins as occasional ceremonial centers. They still are!
But a good fiesta is the deal if you can swing it with the timing. Every town and village in Guatemala has one, the eponymous fiesta for the town’s patron saint, in this case Santo Tomas. Every town and village has two names, a local indigenous one and that of its patron saint. Fiestas can go on for days, though one day is usually the biggest. Every person has two names, also, a Catholic first name and an indigenous surname, unless they identify exclusively with ladinos. (More …)