Thursday, March 25, 2010

Syncretism at its Finest: Chichicastenango

Photo by, used with authorization. 
Thursdays and Sundays. These are the days to visit Chichicastenango, or as we Guatemalans like to call it, Chichi, our country's most colorful open air market!
In pre-Columbian times it was known with its original K'iche' name Chaviar, and it was an important ceremonial place.
The Santo Tomas (Saint Thomas) catholic church -one of the main attractions, was built atop of the platform of one of the Maya temples in the area, and the 18 steps -one for each month of the Maya calendar, are still venerated.
This is one of the places where the fusion between religions has resulted in  amazing, breath-taking, beyond this world expressions of faith, so visiting Chichicastenango may need -probably more than in other places within Guatemala, an open heart and an open mind. Trying to understand a little bit more about their culture, I have learned that in general their conception of the Almighty is quite similar to ours, even deeper.
In addition to the traditional market days, there are several festivities in Chichicastenango, all of them presided by an specific Cofradia (brotherhood-like religious organization). 
Most of these festivities are so vibrant and colorful that in comparison, the market days look pale. Keep in mind the following dates, as you might be interested in planning your visit to Chichi around one of them:
Eternal Father, January 01; Saint Sebastian, January 20; Jesus of Nazareth, First Lent Friday; Saint Joseph, March 19; Our Lady of Sorrows, Friday of Sorrows (last Friday before the Holly Week); Saint Cross, May 03; The Sacrament, June 09; Saint Peter the Martyr, June 29; Encarnation, July 14; Saint Michael, September 29; Saint Jeronimo Doctor, September 30; Our Lady of the Rosary, October 07; Our Lady of Conception, second Sunday in October; Saint Thomas, -Chichicastenango Saint Patron, December 21.
I could write a longer text for this post but then I'd miss the opportunity to share the beautiful images I included. Chichicastenango is world-famous and I am sure you will find plenty of information about it, so, the last thing for me to say is quote my husband's favorite phrase, while in Chichi:
Explore - Enrich - Enjoy!


  1. Two years ago I was in Chichi on March 14, Sunday, which I believe was the 4th or 5th Sunday of Lent. There was a wonderful cofradia procession through the town, carrying several statues of saints. Do you know what this ceremony was, and what date it would be held this year? Thanks.
    Dan S.

  2. In 2010, that date corresponds to the 4th. Sunday of Lent. I am not really sure if what you saw on that day was one of the many processions that take place during the Lent or (since you mention the cofradia) something that was part of the Saint Joseph festivity.
    In any case, the celebration honoring Saint Joseph is always very important in Chichicastenango and takes place every year around March 19th.
    If you are going to be in Guatemala on the 4th. Sunday of Lent, try not to miss the San Bartolome de las Casas procession in Antigua Guatemala. It is magnificent!


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