bought up obsolete school buses, drove them down, and turned them into intercity buses. The new owners painted them in multiple bright colors, layered on chrome wherever they could, and gave them fancy names. The bus above has a chrome luggage rack on the top where an assistant called a brocha (brush) sits while the bus does pickups. The brocha loads luggage, collects fares, and herds the passengers on when the bus is ready to leave. On the road, the drivers tend to be--how can I say it generously--overly daring. Once, while on a blind and precarious mountain curve, two chicken buses traveling bumper-to-bumper passed our tour bus going flat-out, obviously in a race. Jorge, our tour director, shook his head and mumbled under his breath. The wise put their affairs in order before spending much time on such buses. Why are they called chicken buses? Because, generally, no livestock is allowed in the passenger compartment, unless it is small enough to fit on one's lap. According to Jorge, the chicken buses will be phased out in the next few years in favor of a more modern transportation system.
tuk-tuks because of the sound of their motor, they are fast, cheap, reliable, and everywhere. Tuk-tuks originated in Bangkok and someone had the bright idea of bringing them to Guatemala. They were an instant hit. You should always make sure you have settled the fare amount before climbing aboard, however. While on foot, you should also always keep an eye out for tuk-tuks, because their drivers tend to dart for any open space in traffic.
pick-pockets are a more-than-likely presence. Carole wears her daypack on the front for this reason. At such stops, Jorge urged his passengers to leave passports and other important documents on the bus, which was then locked and guarded by the driver. Money can be easily replaced, but a lost passport in a foreign country creates a serious problem. Either through luck or careful attention, we never had a theft, although there were 42 people in our tour and we made many stops.
Market day is a major economic opportunity for them, especially since Chichicastenango has been "discovered" in recent years. We were not the only tourists looking for an exotic experience and local crafts. Above, a young girl of about 7 years is deep in negotiation with a European man. She wears the traditional huipil and corte, although some of the children I saw were wearing more modern styles. Two Maya boys in the back ground were closely monitoring her progress.
back-strap loom, one of the most ancient techniques still used in the world. I have visited archaeological sites with pictures more than 1000 years old that show women using backstrap looms. Alternatively, the textiles above may have been woven on a foot-powered treadle loom, a 16th Century innovation of the Spanish. Such looms are often held together with wooden dowels and twine, with little or no metal in the machine. They are still widely used in Guatemala and Mexico.
Pakal, the great king of Palenque. Covering the dead king's face, the mask was made entirely of jade. The poorer classes used carved wood, or even pieces of bark with slits cut for eyeholes. The masks sometimes represented human faces, but more often were of animals including jaguar, deer, and birds. After the arrival of the Spanish, masks with pink faces and blonde beards appeared, as well as those with the faces of cattle. While in Chichicastenango, Carole added to our growing mask collection by purchasing one from the shop shown above. It has the wonderfully huge beak of a toucan bird.
Hotel Santo Tomás, only a couple of blocks from the center of the market, is a cool refuge of lush courtyards filled with climbing banks of flowering plants surrounding burbling fountains.
735 species of birds, including this gorgeous parrot. In ancient times, parrot feathers from Guatemala were traded for turquoise from the Anasazi civilization of the Southwest US.
This completes Part 3 of my Guatemala series. There is much more to come, so hold on to your hats. Our next stop will be the stunningly beautiful Lake Atitlan. I welcome feedback from my viewers. If you would like to leave a comment, please use the Comments section below, or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim