The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

Savvy Travel: Markets, Chocolate, and Jaguars

Guatemala, home of the ancient Maya culture, reveals still more of her present-day secrets to the Budget Babe's International Travel Advisor Fifi LaMode. —TBB

by Fifi LaMode
Our guide felt one market was not enough for us, so after departing Chichicastenango we were treated to a vegetable market in Almalonga, where they had the hugest carrots I'd ever seen, along with limes the size of grapefruits. Not genetically altered either, it's just how they grow them here.

Next there was the animal market at San Francisco del Alto, teeming with pigs, goats, cows, sheep and pedigreed puppies (don't ask). Along the way Tony tells us all the things that have come from this area: Chewing gum - the word "chicle" like in Chiclets," is Mayan; cotton - the Mayan word is "kotone," tomatoes (who knew?), avocados, chilies and squashes, among others. Chocolate came from the Aztecs up in Mexico, but they have it here too.

Then we stopped in an obscure town called San Andres Xecul and were led to the square. There stands the most peculiar church you will ever see. Remember about the fusion of Mayan and Catholic beliefs (see article on Chichicastenango)? This church takes the cake: Yellow facade (color of corn and the sun, i.e. life), 2 lions representing the coat of arms of the King of Spain, except they're not really lions at all, they're jaguars (Hey King, we're just peasants, we're not very good at making lions! Ha ha, joke's on you, your Maj!). Then there's loads of cute angels with jaguar heads underneath, and corn motif artwork. This is all done in various colors and makes religion look like a happy thing. Their God is forgiving and kind, not vengeful and austere.

On to Quetzaltenango, the second largest city and culture center of Guatemala, filled with neo-classical architecture and surrounded by mountains. You must visit La Luna, a chocolate cafe like no other. Each room is filled with antiques like old coffee grinders, tools, playbills, posters, autographed photos of famous people from the present and from days gone by. Plants abound. By the way, the chocolate is excellent. Manuel Estrada came from Quetzaltenango. He was illiterate but became President, learned to read, and made it his mission to build "Minerva temples" dedicated to learning through the country. Each year book fairs are held at these neo-classical "temples." The one in Guatemala City was town down to build a soccer stadium. Sigh. Sign of the times - soccer players idolized more than scholars.

You're wondering why I'm not talking about shopping - this is a fashion blog, right? The word here is "budget" and this is a good place to spend money on tours, food, drink, services, as well as rich textiles, coffee, Mayan masks, wood carvings, little creches with all the characters in Mayan dress, loads of beautifully hand-crafted items. For those with a bigger budget, there's jade in all prices and colors. You can have a fabulous meal for 1/2 of what it would cost you in Europe or even the U.S. and still have money left over for loads of gifts. Do buy from these people as the workmanship is good and the price is right, and the colors, oh the colors, are so beautiful.

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Sounds so cool!!! I really want to go there myself to experience it all!
#1 Peaches on 2008-04-02 09:28 (Reply)
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