Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Sun 1 Jul 2012 19:07
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LF Market to Lake 003  LF Market to Lake 005

Chichicastenango, also known as Santo Tomás Chichicastenango and referred to simply as Chichi, is a town in the El Quiché department of Guatemala, known for its traditional K'iche' Mayan culture. The town serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name. It is a large indigenous town, lying on the crests of mountaintops at an altitude of 6,447 feet about eighty seven miles northwest of Guatemala City.

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We left Antigua this morning at seven, en route Duncan showed us how to use shades as a pelican bib.


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We arrived at about eight thirty and our driver dropped us two blocks from this famous market.


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Market: We passed a few small shops and tiny stalls but were soon in the market itself. Chichicastenango is well known for its famous market days on Thursdays and Sundays where vendors sell handicrafts, food, flowers, pottery, wooden boxes, condiments, medicinal plants, candles, pom and copal (traditional incense), cal (lime stones for preparing tortillas), grindstones, pigs and chickens, machetes and other tools. In the central part of the market plaza are small eateries (comedores). Chinese goods in the form of plastic bowls, cups, brooms and shoes can be found.



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Among the items sold are textiles, particularly the women's blouses. The manufacture of masks used by traditional dancers, (such as in the Dance of the Conquest) has also made this city well known for woodcarving.



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Steps of Santo Tomás


Next to the market is the 400-year old church of Santo Tomás. It is built atop a Pre-Columbian temple platform, and the steps originally leading to a temple of the pre-Hispanic Maya civilization remain venerated. K'iche' Maya priests still use the church for their rituals, burning incense and candles. In special cases, they burn a chicken for the gods. Each of the 18 stairs that lead up to the church stands for one month of the Maya calendar year. Another key element of Chichicastenango is the Cofradia of Pascual Abaj, which is an ancient carved stone venerated nearby and the Maya priests perform several rituals there. Writing on the stone records the doings of a king named Tohil (Fate).



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Sadly the main church was closed for renovation, but there was a simple little chapel set up in a building at the back.


Geography: Chichicastenango is composed of the municipal seat and 81 rural communities. Nearby village communities include Paquixic, Chucam, Chujupen, Camanibal, Chontala and Chucojom.


K'iche': Spanish spelling: Quiché.

"K'i", meaning "many" and "che'", meaning "tree.", are one of the Maya ethnic groups. Their indigenous language, the K'iche', is a Mesoamerican language of the Mayan language family. The highland K'iche' states in the pre-Columbian era are associated with the ancient Maya civilization, and reached the peak of their power and influence during the postclassic period.



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People: The large majority of K'iche' people live in the highlands of Guatemala, notably in the departments of El Quiché, Totonicapán and Quetzaltenango. They are tiny standing next to us. With more than half the K'iche' population, El Quiché forms the heartland of the K'iche' people. In pre-Columbian times, the K'iche' settlements and influence reached beyond the highlands, including the valley of Antigua and coastal areas in Escuintla.

Most K'iche' speak their native language and have at least a working knowledge of Spanish, with the exception of some remote and isolated rural communities. Maya languages closely related to K'iche' are Uspantek, Sakapultek, Kaqchikel and Tzutujil.

Rigoberta Menchú, an activist for indigenous rights who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, is perhaps the best-known K'iche'.


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History: In pre-Columbian times, the K'iche' Kingdom of Q'umarkaj was one of the most powerful states in the region. K’iche' was an independent state that existed after the decline of the Maya Civilization with the Classic collapse. K'iche' lay in a highland mountain valley of Guatemala, and during this time they were also found in parts of El Salvador. The Spanish conquerors have described the splendid towns such as Q'umarkaj (Utatlán), the capital of K'iche'. They bordered the Kaqchikel.


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Perhaps the most amazing event in the market was actually getting photographic evidence of Lord Mac handing over cash for his smart new waistcoat.


The K'iche' were conquered by the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1524. Their last military commander, Tecún Umán, led the K'iche' armies against the combined forces of Pedro de Alvarado and their Kaqchikel allies, in an epic battle in the valley of Xelajú (Quetzaltenango). The K'iche' armies were defeated, and close to 10,000 K'iche' died, including Tecún Umán, who has since lived on as a legendary figure in the K'iche' oral tradition. After the battle, the K'iche' surrendered and invited Alvarado to their capital, Q'umarkaj. However, Alvarado suspected an ambush and had the city burned. The ruins of the city can still be seen, just a short distance from Santa Cruz del Quiché.


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In fact Lady Mac got a matching one.


One of the most significant surviving Mesoamerican literary documents and primary sources of knowledge about Maya societal traditions, beliefs and mythological accounts is a product of the 16th century K'iche' people. This document, known as the Popol Vuh ("Pop wuj" in proper K'iche - "the book of events") and originally written around the 1550’s, contains a compilation of mythological and ethno-historical narratives known to these people at that time, which were drawn from earlier pre-Columbian sources (now lost) and also oral traditional storytelling. This narrative includes a telling of their version of the creation myth, relating how world and humans were created by the gods, the story of the divine brothers, and the history of the K'iche' from their migration into their homeland up to the Spanish conquest.



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The cemetery seen from the edge of the market.