Visit Chichicastenango – Guatemala, Pre-Columbian beliefs & Witchcraft
I love open air markets.
I can easily skip a museum to visit a local market or weekly bazaar. To visit Chichicastenango is an amazing experience.
If you’re planning to visit Guatemala, Chichicastenango is located at 1965 meters / 6446 ft high and has to be on your top list of priorities in the country.
Let me tell you a bit more about this place.
Chichicastenango market is one of the most colorful places I’ve ever been to. Apart from the frenzy business and chaotic atmosphere of this area, Chichicastenango is a living Pre-Columbian ritualistic arena.
Because Chichicastenango people are deeply connected to Pre-Columbian cults. Also, the Mayan religious book called Popol Vuh, that tells the origin of mankind, was found here.
Most of the population in the region are indigenous of the Quiche ethnic group. They are deeply connected to their ancestry, culture and traditions.
If you want to watch some amazing ancient rituals, there are three main places you can’t miss:
- Staircases of the 450-year-old Church of Santo Tomás
- Chichicastenango cemetery along the western end of 8a Calle street
- Turk’aj hill top to see the ritual to the stone god Pascual Abaj
Chichicastenango is by far one of the most interesting traditional markets in Latin America. When you visit Chichicastenango’s central market you should expect an orgy of colors. Among crowds of thousands of worshipers, an extreme ambiance of witchcraft and sorcery mixes with Pre-Columbian beliefs.
When you visit Chichicastenango you’ll have the chance of walking into a different world. Religious faith of the Quiche Indians and a lively market blend together.
Everywhere you will notice “El Hermano San Simon” and the dolls of the famous Chichi dance of “La Tradición de la Danza del Torito”. The dance of Torito involves 38 characters and lasts approximately 10 hours during a few consecutive days.
Held every Thursday and Sunday, traders begin arriving in Chichicastenango the afternoon before the market day. They build up their place the previous evening.
In this market, you can literally buy everything. From traditional clothing, religious statues, toys, hammocks, flowers, hats, jewelry and shoes. In the central section of the market, you have food stands where you can sit and enjoy a nice warm meal.
Visit Chichicastenango – what to see
1- Chichicastenango Cemetery
One of the city’s impressive sights is the morbid yet colorful cemetery. Filled with brightly painted mausoleums and aboveground tombs.
During my visit to this place, I was able to witness a local sorcerer performing a ceremony ordered by someone that wished extra prosperity in life.
Upon payment, people order witchcraft jobs to this holy man. After gathering several objects, the sorcerer performs a ritual. He invokes spirits and supernatural beings in order to get what he wants.
2- Iglesia de Santo Tomás
Constructed by Dominican priests, the Iglesia de Santo Tomás church is the main religious building in the city. This place was built more than 450 years ago on top of an ancient Mayan worship site.
Interestingly enough, local beliefs of invoking God and the spirits of ancestors. Jesus Christ and Christian Catholic Saints create an eclectic type of religion very peculiar to Chichicastenango. When I visited the church, some Mayan priests with traditional clothes were performing a ritual at the church entrance.
This whole place looks like it came out from a movie. I was taken by surprise. The ensemble of colors, incense smoke, people praying and the dynamic of the street vendors surrounding the church amazed me. This was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been in my life.
3- Mayan shrine of Pascual Abaj
Located on a hilltop south of Chichicastenango, you can visit the Mayan shrine called Pascual Abaj. I was able to go up and watch a live ritual of a man performing a Mayan ritual. He burned candles, set up the altar with incense, flowers and some food, whispered some prayers, threw some objects into the fire. In the end he sprinkled the whole place with “aguardiente” of Venado brand.
The altar of Pascual Abaj is said to exist for hundreds of years. It is one of the most important shrines for Pre-Columbian beliefs in Chichicastenango.
Read the page: The Colorful Cemeteries of Guatemala by Amusing Planet.