Our journey to the western highlands will take us to the most densely inhabited part of Guatemala, and the home of most of the Indian population. Stretching from Guatemala City to the border of Mexico, we see the great mountain peaks of the Sierra Madre and the Cuchumatanes range, and temperate and near-tropical valleys. Guatemala's chain of volcanoes run parallel to the Pacific, forming the southern rim of the region.. Roads climb to frosty heights, drop down in a few kilometers to plateaus planted with corn and wheat, and plunge into narrow valleys, their sides, carpeted with trees, streams rushing through at the bottom. Spotted here and there through the landscape are clusters of whitewashed adobe houses with red tiled roofs, little hamlets of people dressed all alike in traditional clothing.

Cow-Truck Jam

Laundry Day at the river

Santiago Atitlan


Years before the Conquest, the site of Chichicastenango was a Cakchiquel settlement called Chaviar. The Cakchiquels moved their capital to Iximch46 at the start of a period of war with the Quiches, who lad their capital at Cumarcaj, or UtatUn, twenty kilometers from Chaviar. When Alvarado and the Spanish laid waste to Utatlin in 1524 refugees migrated to the area of the former Cakchiquel town, which the Spanish, adopting the name given to the place by their Mexican allies, called Chichicastenango, after the greenish-yellow spiny plant that grows all over the area. The Quiches called their settlement, and still call it, Siguin Tinarnit, the town surrounded by canyons

The Church of Santo Tomas

The Church of Santo Tomas, in Chichicastenango, was built around 1540.
These women, dressed in traditional clothing, sit on the steps leading to the church, where incense is burned to honor the guardian spirits of the church. An interesting combination of old Mayan traditions, and relatively new Catholicism, is evident here.

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