Posts Tagged ‘mayan languages’

Guatemala diaries: Antigua we are there!

March 28, 2013

At Santiago de Atitlan , the streets are narrow and people’s residences are at the back. Squashes and flowers and dogs abound on the narrow passages to the back and the houses are very modest. As we walk the streets, I see young children playing football so I have to ask them who their hero is. They mention someone from Honduras. We had been told that in Honduras, football was not a sport, but a religion.

Walking down the cobble-stoned streets we see more shops and lovely hats for the grand-kiddos. They look liked the bowler hats that Bolivian women wear. More hurried bargaining and purchases later, we sit in the boat to go back.  Half-way through Lake Atitlan, the boat stops. Oh No!  The driver is joking about lack of petrol, what!! He is able to start the boat and we reach our old hotel in one piece. Too much drama for me….

Simba is loquacious as he drives us closer to Antigua, he talks about Chimaltenango, Quetzaltenango ( we did not go that far west) and as we reach Cocotenango  we have to ask about  the meaning of the ‘tenango’ piece that was added to all these places ( Chichicastenango as well) ” Ahaa! ” says Simba,” Tenango just means ‘the place of” in Mayan.”  Of course! Think of  ‘nagar’,   or ‘pettai’ or ‘halli’ in India and ‘ville’ say in the USA. Makes sense.  

So then of course we learn that the ‘Chimal’ refers to  trees so it’s the place with trees and  Quetzaltenango is the place with quetzales, the beautiful bird of Guate that is getting endangered due to excessive hunting and then my favorite, Chichicastenango:124141142 supposed to be the place of stinging nettles. Don’t believe the last one, my sweet sweet Chichi  did not have anything unpleasant for me!  Well then I started thinking about names in general. Greenland is hardly green, a desolate patch of loneliness and ice for miles and Iceland is a gorgeous place with geysers and beautiful scenery even if it is cold. And then we have a place in Chicago called Downer’s Grove, seriously??

While Simba is chattering we get back on the Pan-American highway but the road keeps winding and I close my eyes and listen.  How much more of this? I have a dread of big white lights in buses, cold chocolate milk, because as a child, feeling motion-sickness was always linked with those two things. So as I felt woozy, I had to think about them and feel worse. Soon we are on less tortuous terrain and stop at Chirijuyu near Chimaltenango, for lunch.  And what do I eat there? More thick tortillas made fresh, an excellent bean soup and yes, chocolate milk!  My stomach feels like cement ( those tortillas are small but thick) as we get closer to Antigua.

Guatemala diaries:to lake Atitlan

March 26, 2013

094095098108Landed in Panachajel, close to Lake Atitlan. The lake area is a popular destination for tourists and all the different Mayan communities live close to and around this lake. Panachajel, where we are, is crowded with foreigners, especially white people and has some interesting store fronts.  We get to the restaurant called Casablanca  which has pictures of Bogart and Bergman but also a motley of photographs of Mayan women, abstract art and some pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses added for good measure. There is even a painting of Mother Teresa hung on the walls around us already crowded with different pictures.  The food is delicious and we learn that the owner is from North America, what else?! We are close to Santander street and plan to come back in the evening for food at Bombay cafe( I have already checked out Lonely Planet for some restaurant suggestions) and some shopping. They have ‘tuk-tuks’ here; what we in India would call’autos’.  Simba takes us to our hotel through a bumpy, gravelly road to a beautiful hotel on the lake called Hotel Atitlan. The gardens are absolutely gorgeous and I see a couple in the garden who need someone to take their pictures. Simba leaves us to remind us to be ready in the morning for a boat ride on the lake. My husband is waiting to shop at the big gift store right there in the hotel and takes me in.

Guatemala diaries: leaving Chichicastenango for Solola market:

March 26, 2013

089041071072Simba is a very interesting guide; he looks like a guero(white man) but is very connected to the Mayan people. He calls himself a ladino, which means half Mayan and half white. Apparently, his grandfather was an American, who came to Guatemala and had a Mayan mistress whom he abandoned and went back to USA.  I think that must have made Simba bitter about his white ancestry and maybe makes him closer to the Mayan traditions. Whatever the reasons, he is fascinated with the curanderosloosely called witchdoctors in English, but it is more like alternative medicine)  of Guatemala that I mentioned in my first two posts.  having grown up in India, I am very familiar with this whole world of alternative cures and medicines. The sweet woman , Raji, who takes care of my sister’s house and dog in India follows these traditions. When her son has problems with mental health, she prefers going to somebody and ask for advice instead of going to a psychiatrist.

So we follow Simba up the hill to see the colorful gravestones in the cemetery. There is even a gravestone with the Virgin of Guadalupe ( the dark-skinned Mary of Mexico) There are smoke-covered dark areas where the Mayans have obviously used incense, candles and rum offerings to their gods, a prefect blend of local beliefs with the Catholic tradition. We leave Chichicastenango to go onwards to Lake Atitlan . On the way, we stop at another colorful market at Solola to see dark- colored chayotes, vegetables, chillies and fish. Here there is more colorful attire, more Mayan groups from different parts around the lake.

Guatemala diaries:Chichi contd

March 25, 2013

Before dinner that evening( where we are the only  two served by our waiter,Juan, dressed in 16th century style attire) we go to the bar area to talk to the gentleman at the bar. He is a small man with glasses and speaks English and Spanish, but tells me that he is Mayan and speaks Quiche. His mayan name is Loo with an accent on the ‘oo’ sound that abruptly ends, kind of hard for me to say! What a charming room and adjoining rooms! We discover an ancient typewriter in one of the rooms and  paintings by early 19th century Guatemalan artists called Garabito andAlfredo Suarez. We discover a computer as well in that room and quickly check messages.

Loo is very friendly and talks about the German American who started this Inn. (There is a faded black and white picture of the gentelman, early 50’s rendition. Most hotels in Guatemala seem to be owned by Americans who must have come here early on in the 20th century) He mentions that tourism is low right now( pretty obvious since we seem to be the only people around)I ask him about  buying stuff at the market and he states that it is a good place to bargain and buy beautiful hand embroidered ‘huipiles’, the blouse the women wear.  I regret in my mind the fact that I missed a chance that evening buying one of those by bargaining too hard, feel like a tightwad not having bought something from that woman.

Juan comes and puts firewood and lights the fireplace. We go to bed with several layers shivering and I, for once, wear my shawl tightly wrapped around in the morning to have a look at the beautiful birds chirping while my husband grumbles about the cold, cold night.  Before Simba arrives, we have breakfast and walk up and down the undulating, cobblestoned  streets as the vendors come in and out cleaning up after the Sunday market.037027043056040

guatemala diaries4: on the road to Chichi

March 22, 2013

It is Sunday morning and we get ready to meet our new guide at 7.  Simba( I have to call him that,with his blond mane and big body, he reminds me of a mighty lion) greets us at the front and we get into the van. He is both our driver and guide. Simba stops at a hotel in Zona viva to pick up two women who would be with us for half the trip.

Simba talks all the way. We first stopped at a coffee processing plant and talk to a lady who explains the process and let us try the coffee there which is delicious. Then we get on the road again, winding roads; it feels like I am in the hills in India and also makes me feel a little sick.  When I do sneak a peak outside,the view is breathtaking and Simba points out some volcanoes as well in the distance.  Many hair-pin bends later we stop to eat lunch.  I see a woman making tortillas; she takes a lime size dough from her pan of ‘masa’ and just pats it in her palms and she puts( a slightly thicker version than the corn tortillas I have seen in the supermarkets in Chicago)the tortilla on a hot concave base and cooks it. We try and our efforts are pitiful; they either tear up or are tinier versions of hers. She must think we are inept cooks!  Lunch is good and filling: lots of warm thick tortillas with beans and cheese and a cup of hot chocolate to wash it all down.

Back on the bus with my eyes mostly closed with more twists and turns as we go up mountains.  We see lots and lots of women wearing colored skirts and beautifully embroidered blouses.  Simba tells us that based on the style of their skirts and blouses one can tell which group of Mayans they belong to since there are over 20 different Mayan languages and groups in and around Lake Atitlan and surrounding areas.  We finally arrive at Chichicastenango to the Sunday market where many Mayan families would be selling their wares in between the two churches, El Calvario and Santo Domingo.  On the way we stop at some trees growing along the sides of the road and pick up orange-colored beans.

Simba drops the two women at their hotel.  It is a charming place with cockatoos, macaws and beautiful trailing vines and plants everywhere. Our hotel Mayan Inn is 023smaller but similar.  Our room is tiled, has a fireplace with rugs and two  beds.  It is chilly already and I know we will cover ourselves with layers of blankets and need the fireplace started.019012008