Market in Guatemala (Chichicastenang) © TausP.
A quaint traditional hill village with cobbled streets and red tiled roofs, Chichicastenango has been one of the largest centres of Mayan trade since pre-Hispanic times and thousands of people gather in a spectacle of colour and festivity every week. Chichi, as it is called, is renowned mainly for its Sunday and Thursday markets, Sunday being the busiest. The markets attract tourists, commercial traders and Mayan weavers from all over the highland area. It is also an important centre of culture and religion, and the locals have combined traditional Mayan religious rites with Catholicism. This is particularly evident around the Church of St Thomas where traders spread their goods on the steps, burn incense, offer food to the Mayan earth god, and pray to the Virgin Mary. Like its market, Chichi is famous for its outstanding handicrafts, which are rich in colour, and expertly designed by the local artisans. Tourist-orientated stalls blend into the frenzied trading of local necessities like fruit and vegetables, balls of wax, lumps of chalk, macaroni, sewing items, soap, baskets and spices.