Exploring the lost Mayan Culture, or what's left of it at least.

Published: April 15th 2014
Edit Blog Post

Up early again, but had coffee in my cottage (YAY) and blogged a bit. Came down for breakfast and they kicked me out of the restaurant as it was 07:27 and she was quick to point out they don’t open for 10 minutes. Um, ok……. So it’s currently 07:35 and I am waiting (im)patiently for my second cup of coffee and breakfast. However the main drag is quite interesting - I’m coming back here tomorrow morning to see if I can capture some photos of the goat herds, the women walking with the palm leaves on their heads and so on:-)

On my walk down I encountered 3 birds piled up together; I think 2 were male hitting on the one female and she was trying to get away. So I yelled at them to leave her alone and then looked up and Benny was sitting on his porch watching me giggling. Then I saw the calico cat again; I keep running into her and she has had part of her tail cut off, and she’s just a wee little thing who is cute as a button. We had a great conversation this morning chatting and meowing back and forth; then I looked up and another guest is watching me with his coffee laughing out loud! I smiled and said I miss my cats at home and he said he is too! Ah, fellow language, come love for animals, is around the world!

The scenery was still spectacular this morning, overcast but not as much as the night before and the views are magnificent. Lake Atitlan was formed when a magma basin emptied a few hundred thousand years ago in a massive volcanic eruption. There are still 3 volcanoes in the area: San Pedro, Santiago and San Antonio and some still have a bit of volcanic activity. See, now you can say you did learn something after reading my blog!

After breakfast we took a tuk tuk vs boat (faster) to the city of Santiago de Laguna, as we are just on the outskirts of town where it is peaceful and quiet. It was a very busy place with a lot going on, and sadly the locals reminded me of Mexicans in their desire to sell you things. They were aggressive, loud, followed you, shoved things into your face and it was not the typical behavior of anyone
Dress up time!Dress up time!Dress up time!

Traditional female Tzuthuil wear
we had seen to date. Got really annoying truth be told, and I simply ignored them, stopped saying no thank you, because they took that as a form of conversational engagement and then they really wouldn't leave you alone. But the cool thing is we got to go meet a very elderly, traditional lady and learn about her traditional clothing as it is quite a ceremony to get dressed up. The Tzutuhil Mayan lady explained a bit about how the dress is very classic, and each tribe (for lack of a better word) had their own style, their own designs and patters and it is very costly to make, and to purchase, so it is quite an honour to be able to wear them. She showed us how to put on the traditional head dress, that is 20 metres long and needs to be wrapped 20 times around the head (Mayan's are all into 20, it's their counting system, their calendar and so on; pretty much anything to do with numbers will be based around 20). We got to hold one afterwards, and it is lighter than I had thought, but cool to watch her put it on. Then they
Tzutuhil made it to 25 cent coinTzutuhil made it to 25 cent coinTzutuhil made it to 25 cent coin

Out of 22 different Mayan cultures
dressed us up in the traditional wear, and it was very comfortable, and not as hot as I had imagined it would be.

Then we went to meet the deity of Maximom. Justin had advised us that some will find it really interesting, and some will find it hokey. I was the latter. Oh my word; it's hidden in a long, twisted alley and tucked away in a dark corner. You have to pay 2 questzales to go see him, and if you want photos (only 3) it's another 10. I opted not to pay the 10 since it was a dark room, and without flash I would not get a good photo anyway. Boy am I glad I didn't bother. For those of you that believe in this, forgive me, or better yet, just skip this part. It's a wooden head all dressed up with a cigar in his mouth. And they have a Shaman and a body guard with him 24/7. It is considered quite an honour to be assigned that post, and it is very coveted. Yup. I got to sit beside a wooden head for 365 days and feed it cigarettes, cool huh? They literally
street scenestreet scenestreet scene

Just love the traditional dress mixed in with modern wear
took out the cigar from his mouth, and were lighting a cigarette to put into his (wooden) mouth and I had to leave for fear of laughing. His body is basically a stick man made of wood, and they keep that separated from his head (upstairs in this case) incase the Spanish come back and try to steal him. I do my best to respect other peoples religions and beliefs, and try not to pass judgement (honestly!) however this one was a struggle. If you are curious in a this-is-so-weird kind of way, check out the wikipedia link as it describes it a bit more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxim%C3%B3n

The hotel we are staying in has taps for purified, UV cleaned water, and I had had some t hat morning. I do have a sensitive system (lord knows how often I get sick) and while I can't say for certain it was the water, I was feeling ill with gut issues. It was not that bad, but just enough to keep me feeling icky and not overly happy to be wandering around. We did the church and I stayed outside getting some fresh air, and then had free time for shopping. Because of the aggressive nature of the locals, it was apparently quickly that no one really wanted to do any shopping there, but our boat wasn't scheduled for another hour. So Larry and I wandered back up to go have coffee, and had a nice cup, until a group of Italians showed up, and basically tried to shove us off the couch in true European fashion. I shoved back. Guess who won? *grin*

We then boarded another boat, and off we went to the city of San Juan la Laguna; where the entire area is pretty much a part of a cooperative that Planeterra helps fund. Rupalaj K’istalin means ‘crystalline face in Mayan, aka Rostro Maya in Spanish, for the face named after the mountain that looms over the city. This is also the name of the association that introduces people to the culture, history, and local specialties of this region. What an incredible difference in the vibe, the feeling, it was so wonderful! It was quiet, peaceful, people weren't hassling you, and even the air felt calm. We met our local guide who helped get us up to the home of where we were having our traditional home cooked Mayan lunch with the family. G does their home stay on other itineraries in this community; and this was just one of the houses they use. The little girl Connie saw Justin and her eyes lit right up and she ran at him full speed for a huge hug! That was SO cool to see; not only is visiting these places helping to fund them, and encourage work etc, but the locals truly love the people. I *heart* moments like that! Going here was all about learning more on the nature and folklore of the Tz’utujil culture and it was a wonderful day!

Sadly I wasn't feeling very good, but the meal was delicious. Homemade carrot soup, with hibiscus iced tea, the traditional dish of Pepian which is basically a stew/sauce with pumpkin seeds, spices that you can put anything in. They served it with local vegetables and rice for me, and the same plus chicken for everyone else. Dessert was fresh, fresh fruit, but sadly I couldn't eat much as my tummy was arguing with my mouth at that stage. But what a great lunch, the family were so friendly and cute! The Guatemalan's are physically small people
Local Mayan girlLocal Mayan girlLocal Mayan girl

She smiled every time I didn't have my camera on her!
- I've never felt so tall or 'big' in my life before, even in Asia. Everyone is fairly short, fairly petite in stature and when they smile their faces just light up, it's so cool. There are bars on the windows of the house (very standard in Central America) and Connie with 2 friends were watching us while eating their lunch from outside (not enough room for all of us) and we laughed that they were taking on dinner and a show! We played peek-a-boo with them, grinned, smiled waved and just had a awesome time!

We went to the textile place, where there are 21 women part of this. They grow their own cotton (but let them grow into trees as opposed to North Americans who continue to cut the plant short), which comes in white, dark brown and a chocolate colour (all natural). Then they showed us how it is harvested, converted to thread, and all the different things they use to die, every colour under the rainbow and all natural! We got to do some shopping in there, and I *may* have purchased something for myself and one of my nieces!!

Then we headed over
Mayan boyMayan boyMayan boy

What a cutie - and this wasn't posed, just fluke!
to the 'medicine natural pharmacy' where the women grow all the herbs for anything that ails you. We tasted some fresh, learned how they work together to fix different things and so on. I actually purchased some tea for stomach/intestinal issues, being as we had a full kitchen in our cottage I could make some when I got back. Which I did. And then forgot I was brewing/steeping it. So it may have sat for longer than needed. A lot longer. And it may have tasted like, well, like seriously overstepped natural tea that should never be drunk. But what did I do? Drank it! Gritted my teeth, swallowed as fast as I could and hoped it would help. After all it was my stomach not my mouth that was sick! Too bad I won’t really have time to make tea again; as if it truly tastes this bad; I don’t think I would bring it home!

After lunch we continued on our city tour, saw the old church that they are currently rebuilding a new church on top of/around it to keep the old and introduce the new. I forget the age of the original one, but the

Learning how cotton is made here, and seeing white, dark brown and chocolate colour - all natural. Also learning about the natural dye process
new one was started in 2007 and they look quite nice together actually. Then we went to the art gallery to look at paintings, and meet the actual artists that painted the photos and a couple were bought. Then we headed over to the tree planting ceremony, where a Mayan priest did a blessing, and in the tree planting circle he had poured sugar, dried pine sap, and then candles and lit them and prayed over them. Then I got to plant the tree with him, spot was chosen to provide the coffee plants with more shade; it's all about Mother Earth and keeping a good flow.

Headed back after that, and with me not feeling so good; I skipped out on happy hour and dinner, did a bit of blogging, cleaning up photos and just relaxed. Boiled their purified water, drank bad tea, prepped coffee for the morning and just flushed out my system. Here's hoping tomorrow is a better, healthier day!! SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE PHOTOS

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18



Very tedious process, takes months to make a large piece, but so beautiful!

Manual, all by hand, from picking cotton, to creating string, to dying to weaving...... amazing!
Natural plant gardenNatural plant garden
Natural plant garden

For what ails you - traditional vs. Western medicine
Being one with NatureBeing one with Nature
Being one with Nature

Was so cool to plant a tree here for Mother Earth
Local TransportationLocal Transportation
Local Transportation

Always room for one more......
Old vs. NewOld vs. New
Old vs. New

New church (background) being built to an existing church.

Flew into the courtyard in an art gallery we visited. Squacky and not shy. Check out the leaf he's eating?

Tot: 2.61s; Tpl: 0.054s; cc: 15; qc: 64; dbt: 0.0447s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.4mb