Entering a Guatemalan marketplace is like stepping through the gates to Narnia; you never know what sort of extraordinary journey will await you on the other side! I have documented for your entertainment, a somewhat bizarre chain of events that occurred as we explored a Guatemalan market at Christmas time. The adventure actually unfolded chronologically as described below. (Also check out some of the video footage we captured in yet another market, with a completely different twist.)
WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE, TOTO
Upon first entering the market I noticed that I was, by far, the tallest person in the place. I kept my sunglasses on to hide my blue eyes as I am all too aware of how I stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd of locals. Every time someone spoke to me, I tensed up not being able to decode their Spanish lingo. The most I could muster as a response was “no gracias.” Thehustle and bustle was so overwhelming it was difficult to hear anyone speak. Hopefully I never responded to the question, “How are you?” with, “No thank you.”
LIVE MUSIC, SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT AND VEGGIES
The market outdoor displays consisted of vendors selling moss, flowers and twigs bound together to form the shape of reindeer and other festive creatures. As our grocery outing happened to fall on The Day of the Virgin, a small shrine was being displayed of a man bowing on bended knee to the Virgin Mary. The sound of a marimba echoed in our ears as themusicians displayed their talents for the amusement of on-lookers. Inside the market walls, fruits and veggies (many kinds that I was unable to identify), were piled almost to the ceiling. Guatemalan women, dressed in their vibrant colouredhuipiles, stretched their bodies high to reach the vegetable mountain peaks.
PHOTO ABOVE: Huipiles are the most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico to Central America. The style of traditional huipiles generally indicates the ethnicity and community of the wearer as each have their own methods of creating the fabric and decorations. Some have intricate and meaningful designs.
SANTA CLAUSE, BBQ, AND THE VIRGIN MARY
Karina’s grandmother lead the pack and I wandered closely behind with my mouth agape, all my senses stimulated. Bright flashing Christmas lights decorated each vendor’s station in honour of the Virgin. Santa Clause and Rudolph adorned signs which quoted excerpts from the bible written in Spanish. Clouds of delicious smelling smoke emerged from grilled meats cooking over charcoal barbeques. Car exhaust seeped into the building from the chicken buses passing by on the street, leaving me feeling a little light headed. Children ran up and down between the stalls stopping to ask us for spare change. They continued to stare at us long after we’ve turned them down. Karina’s grandma eventually gave in and purchased a set of five, hand-made wooden spoons from a filthy-faced little boy. He couldn’t have been more than 8 years old.
GUATEMALAN PIRATES AND BANANA LEAVES
A little boy dressed head to toe in typical Mayan clothing ran past me wearing a pirate hat and a patch over one eye. As he jumped into his mother’s arms she looked up at me with a big, bright smile. Her teeth were adorned with gold fillings. Teen-aged girls jostled passed the pirates while balancing enormous baskets with tropical fruits and banana leaves. A huge pile of batter made from corn flour was being scooped up by women making stacks of fresh tortillas atlightning speeds.
THE ART OF MULTITASKING
Men and women worked hard preparing rice, potatoes, meat and cream dishes for their customers. Women breast fed their infants with one hand while attending to toddlers with the other. Babies slept soundly strapped to their mothers’ back in a blanket-sling, surrounded by echoing voices, pots and pans clanging loudly. The sounds of businesses racing full speed ahead.
FRUIT AND SAWED-OFF SHOTGUNS
As we gathered the heaps of fresh fruit we had purchased and wandered back to the car, I gave a discrete wave to thesawed-off shot-gun toting teen-aged security guard. Just your average day grocery shopping in Guatemala city. Check out the Cost Breakdown for Travel Through Guatemala
~ A Wise Tale By April ~
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