Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Santa Cruz de la Laguna

Yesterday I took a boat to Santa Cruz de la Laguna to see if I wanted to stay there. There are a couple of hotels right by the water, and they do look nice. But the hotels are completely separated from the village by a long winding pathway twisting up the mountain. I climbed up to the village there (actually one of several that are part of Santa Cruz de la Laguna). The view up the climb was spectacular.
The village reminded me a lot of San Mateo de Ixtatan; if anything it was even poorer. The houses are on a steep slope, maybe thirty degrees all the way up. Most are made of stones or cinder block, with some made of adobe. Like any Mayan village there are dogs everywhere in the street.
There was a small church, with kids playing basketball out front. There were some American or European volunteers playing basketball with them. I thought that if I went up far enough I'd find a road with a bus station that might have chicken buses going to Chichicastenango, but the town doesn't appear to be connected to a road.
On the way back down I wanted to find a place to change a Q100 note, since the boat drivers don't always have change. I stopped in a small restaurant that was run by a nonprofit that is educating the young Mayans in trades. When I opened the door the first thing I saw was a room full of sewing machines and weaving looms.
They had a small restaurant, run by culinary students. I ordered a tamale plate, and they made a fantastic little dish with small vegetable tamales under sauce and three kinds of salsa. There was a Mayan man in there who appeared to be in charge, and I asked him about the school. The vocational center is called CECAP, and in addition to sewing and culinary skills, it teaches metalwork, carpentry, computer skills, as well as traditional academics. It's run by an organization called Amigos de Santa Cruz. On the way back down I saw a sign off the main path that led to a cafe and event organizer, the Tours Atitlan Adventure Center. I stopped in for some coffee, and met a young man named Isalas, who worked for Tours Atitlan. He asked me what kind of things I wanted to do, and I explained to him that I wasn't that interested in things like kayaking and paragliding and so on, I was more interested in Mayan culture and history.
Isalas turned out to be incredibly knowledgeable, though I think he's still in his teens. His father and mother are Quiche and they were in the Quiche department when the military committed some of their worst atrocities, and barely survived themselves. He told me that the man who is president of Guatemala now was a general during that time, so not surprisingly most Mayans hate him. He showed me a book that described the civil war well, and I want to find it.
He had also been reading extensively about Mayan culture himself. He said that he felt a lot of it was being lost and forgotten. He knew of the events in the Popul Vuh very well, and was able to tell me some things I didn't know. He had been to Copan (should have an accent, but I can't figure out how to put it in), which was said to be the "magic city in the east" where the first people got their gods. He told me that there is a place near there called Sopas where the first people had their children, and had to wait six months before they could return. I asked him if he knew of a play about how the Mayan king Tekun Uman was killed by the Spanish. He said that he knew about it, but that it was being performed less and less. He also told me of a book that claims that that Tekun Uman wasn't really a king, just a mask. I need to find this book, preferably an English version, so I can understand that better. Today I'm heading up to Pana. It will cost a little more money to stay there, but I need to be closer to Chichicastenango and Santa Cruz del Quiche. I'm going to get my own place with wifi, maybe even a bathroom. Then I'm going to find the cheapest way to go north.

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