Monday, April 5, 2010

The Ancient Land of Tz'utujiles: Solola

As I told you last Monday, in my attempt to introduce you to some of the most representative elements of the Guatemalan Holy Week, I decided to make a stop in our journey. 
Now that the Holy Week is over, we will rejoin our itinerary from Chichicastenango, the last town we visited, and to do so, we have to go back to the Inter American Highway (CA1), and from there, we will go south via a nice, scenic road, towards the Department of Solola
Before starting the description of this new department and some of its most attractive places, let me tell you that I am fortunate enough to know the surroundings very well and have witnessed many of the traditional rituals because some of my daughter's relatives are from this area.
Geographically speaking, Solola is at little bit more than 2 thousand meters above sea level and it is surrounded to the north by Quiche and Totonicapan; to the south by Suchitepequez; to the east by Chimaltenango; and to the west, by Quetzaltenango.
It is divided into 19 municipalities: Solola (the capital of the department), Santa Maria Visitacion, Santa Lucia Utatlan, Nahuala, Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, Santa Clara, Concepcion, Panajachel, Santa Catarina Palopo, Santa Cruz, San Andres Semetabaj, San Antonio Palopo, San Jose Chacaya, San Lucas Toliman, San Pablo, San Marcos, San Juan, San Pedro, and Santiago Atitlan.
Most of these towns are located in the surroundings of the Atitlan Lake and during the colonial times, they were named to honor the Apostles.
The predominant language in the more traditional towns is Tz'utuhil, although there are municipalities where people speak K'iche' and Cakchiquel; and probably because tourism is a very important industry in the region, Spanish has become popular.
About the origin of the name, the main theory says that the word Solola is a Tz'utuhil voice that means "return to the water".
To start our journey through this department, I think it is worthy to make a stop in Solola, where Tuesdays and Fridays are important market days.
The open air market in Solola is considered to be one of the most authentic in the Guatemalan Highlands, maintaining its utilitarian purpose. 
Other than the market days, Sundays are a good reason to visit Solola as the local church dignitaries or Cofradias, parade ceremoniously through the streets to the cathedral.
After visiting the place, and as we leave the town down the road towards the lake, we are going to pass by the cemetery, which has to be one of the nicest places to be buried. What a picturesque place surrounded by magnificent views!
Needless to say, those views to the Atitlan Lake, are only a prelude for what it is to come.

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