Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Totonicapan: Gateway to the Evergreen Forests

Its historical name Chui Mekenha translates as "above hot water" and this is due to the several hot springs in the area, which by the way, was densely populated at the time of the conquest. Official records indicate that this town provided the K'iche warrior Tecun Uman -declared National Hero, with 90,000 men for battle.
The defensive spirit of the K'iche descendants in Totonicapan prevailed for centuries and in 1820 Atanasio Tzul commanded a rebellion against the Spanish authorities; even though his movement didn't last, Atanasio Tzul is acknowledged as one the greatest Guatemalans.
History and heroes aside, this relatively small department is divided only into 8 Municipalities: Totonicapan -the main town, San Cristobal Totonicapan, San Francisco El Alto, San Andres Xecul, Momostenango, Santa María Chiquimula, Santa Lucia La Reforma y San Bartolo. 
Due to its geographical location, 2500m above the sea level, the weather in Totonicapan all year round registers maximum temperatures of 18ºC (64ºF) and minimum of 5ºC (41ºF). To be honest, what I remember is that the only time I went to Totonicapan, I was freezing up there.
The main language in Totonicapan is K'iche and there are records indicating that this place was an important settlement for the K'iches before they moved to Q'umarkaj (also known as Utatlan), located in the department of El Quiche.
Despite its extraordinary nature beauty and gracious architecture, generally Totonicapan is not included within the touristic attractions of the country, and let me tell you, a visit to this place and its surroundings is worthy, especially for those interested in hiking for nature explorations.
Totonicapan is surrounded by pine forests with the largest amount of conifers species in the world's tropical zone, including the endemic and threatened Guatemalan fir or pinabete (Abiens guatemalensis). These forests can be birded all year round, a paradise for birdwatchers and birdwatching is what we are going to do tomorrow.

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