Disneyland ChiChi Style


CHICHICASTENANGO (CHICHI), GUATEMALA: July 12

Leah: I’m a fan of ChiChi, I must admit! Despite having to disgorge ourselves from the camioneta straight into the chaotic market day and assaulting our olfactory and auditory senses while having no idea where to go, I love the vibe here. Thursdays and Sundays are ChiChi’s highland market days, which means everyone from miles around comes to sell their food, weavings, masks, flowers and everything else under the sun. We couldn’t even find the central plaza typical of most towns here because stalls were packed one upon the other with only the narrowest of walkways to navigate between, all centered around the cathedral. We pushed through the frenetic chaos and found the delightful Hotel Mashito a few blocks back from the hubbub. We were welcomed with fluorescent green walls, a clean shared bathroom, our own bedroom and 50’s style sitcom beds (as in two separate twins) for cheaper ($10 total) than what we’ve paid in hostels. Spartan, but no bugs, overt stains or grimy bathroom= I’m good.


From there we grabbed an early lunch since we hightailed it out of Xela at 7 a.m. and hadn’t eaten anything except fried plantain chips we bought from one of the vendors while on the bus. Fried chicken for me and some sort of seasoned beef situation for Esteban, all while enjoying re-runs of the original 90210 and some horrific SciFi movie with killer locusts playing on the static-ridden TV in the restaurant where we ate. Stomachs full and wanting to explore, we hiked out of town and up a forested hill (hills seem to feature frequently in our walking escapades lately and for some reason they’re always steep, leaving us gasping for air at this altitude) to visit PascualAbaj. It’s a religious shrine with multiple smaller altars facing a darkened pre-Columbian sculpture where offerings are made and burned with the help of a shaman, ranging from food and flowers to chickens and always including incense, alcohol and prayers. We weren’t supposed to take pictures, so unfortunately we have none to show; the vistas were lovely, however, and we both felt our spirits lighten at being surrounded again by nature.

After Pascual Abaj we headed to the cemetery, which we noticed from our hotel and knew we needed to check out. I should explain here that no matter where I travel, I always look for cemeteries and the older the better; it may sound morbid, but I love wandering around the tombstones, reading names and inscriptions and reflecting on the lives that came before me. Just one of my random quirks, but one I enjoy nonetheless and I certainly wasn’t going to let this one slip by—I’d never seen anything like it! The whole hill was full of row upon row of graves in candy-colored pastel hues, many of which were large concrete structures, almost like small houses, supplemented by colored crosses and lower cement structures that looked like submarines. Upon seeing it for the first time, I remarked to Steve, “I know this sounds wrong, but it looks like a macabre Disneyland!” There were beautiful inscriptions, incredible stonework and intricate paintings—even a memorial to bus drivers who have died, complete with a replica of highways, hills and road signs. I loved the way each person’s final resting place was so unique and seemed to use color and design to truly rejoice in a life.

A siesta then followed, then back to the market where we grabbed some fruit, drinks and muffins for dinner and breakfast tomorrow. The stalls were already being torn down and it looked like a different town from a mere few hours ago; the vendors were taking stock of their wares and profit, while others hopped on buses out of town or tried to hawk the last of their stock and the opportunistic local street dogs congregated near the stalls that had been selling food, just waiting for their chance to swoop in for dinner.In fact, we even saw a dapper male, head held high as he trotted past us with an entire bag of tortillas in his mouth—I so wish we had a picture! As I said, I like the energy here and I’m excited to see what ChiChi looks and feels like tomorrow when it’s no longer market madness. It’s been a wonderful stopover and I’m glad we came, especially as a follow-up to Xela.

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