One of many famous destinations in the highlands of Guatemala is the huge market of Chichicastenango. There is no comparable place in the Country where to buy textiles and handcrafts. This tourist attraction is always worth to be visited. But what is the reality behind the market? How do the women work, do the local children have to work and how is the merit at the end of the day? Here comes a more honest description of the market in Chichicastenango.
The colorful, artfully woven textiles are among the most important tourist souvenirs available in Guatemala. Many hours of work are behind detailed scarves, bags, blouses and purses that are sold by the hundreds of women in the country. Most tourist places such as Antigua or the villages on Lake Atitlán have smaller handcraft markets. Visitors can also buy the textiles there. But nowhere is the offer as large as on the Chichicastenango market. It is located in the western highlands and is especially known for the textile market every Thursday and Sunday. On-site there are traditional Mayan costumes for women as well as all kinds of textiles, bags, pottery, ornaments, fruits and vegetables.
More than 4,000 visitors a day come to the city of Chichicastenango, which has around 30,000 inhabitants. Not far from Lake Atitlán and Quiché is the place that offers the largest market in the country. Most exhibitors arrive the night before, as they still need to build up their booth. As they travel from the surrounding villages, women often have to carry very heavy bundles on their backs that contain the textiles. In addition, children are to be supervised and the trails are steep, rocky and dusty. After all, the two market days are the only way for many families to earn enough money to survive.
However, enough is relative here. After all, women do not earn a lot on the market days in Chichicastenango. The competition is huge and for the many sellers, there are not enough visitors who leave enough money on the spot. At the end of a hard, exhausting day, therefore, little remains. Therefore, it is fair to say that women would find it easier if the textiles were sold centrally. Without long ways to the market, without heavy bundles on the back and without the hard fight for the buyers. For on the other days when there is no market, women have to spend long periods making textiles and cannot recover from the hard market days.
For tourists Chichicastenango is definitely a worthwhile destination and offers an overwhelming insight into the splendor of color of the Maya. The textiles are in any case an extraordinary souvenir - which may also cost a bit more to honor the long journey to the market.