Yesterday I took the boat across Lago de Atitlan, planning to stay there that night, but I found a cheap ride to Chichicastenango, and decided to go.
The name Chichicastenango comes from a Mayan word that meant "Nettles Heights." It was a Kaqchiquel city that was conquered by the Quiche king Kiquab in the early 15th century. Most people come here for the enormous market that takes place on Thursday and Sunday, but I was looking for something else. It was here that the Spanish friar Francisco Jimenez found the transcript of the Popul Vuh written by Mayan scribes in the Latin Alphabet version of Quiche.
There are also glass cabinets near the front door that contain larger figures of various saints. For each saint there is a cofradia, a religious society of men who come in the church and burn incense and candles for the saint. Right now, probably because Semana Santa is approaching, the church is hung with bright purple fabric and has several floats of saints that belong to the cofradias. Unlike the stern old milagros in the cabinets, these milagro floats are decorated with flowers, bright parrot feathers and mirrors encased in bright fabric. They are brightly dressed in clothes that have quetzal notes hanging off them. I sat through a service in the church yesterday, but during the whole service men from the cofradias were walking back and forth in front of their milagro floats on their knees burning incense.
There is also a much larger float, perhaps 30 feet long and 10 feet high and made of dark, carved wood. It has figures of angels in Semana Santa purple on it. I know from the ceremony I saw last year in Antigua that the cofradias carry this enormous float on their shoulders, probably mounted with the large figure of Jesus carrying the cross in the middle of the church.
I have so much more to write, but no time now. When I get back online I will talk about the shrine of Pascual Abaj and the Museum of Masks.