Saturday, September 04, 2004

Week 10 - Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

August 28 to September 3, 2004

Saturday to Friday - QUETZALTENANGO (XELA)

Stayed in Xela the whole week with my Guatemalan family. The following were some activities that we did in school:

SANTA MARIA VOLCANO - This volcano erupted in 1902, killing many. Here is a site from Michigan Technological University (MTU) on the volcano. We attempted to climb this volcano at 1:30am to be able to see the sun rise from its peak. It is a four to five hour hike up to the top...very very very difficult, steep, and slippery. Unfortunately, we were not able to make it to the top due to rain and dangerous conditions. The hike, however, was very beautiful!

OLINTEPEQUE - visited a village. The following is taken from page 595, Footprints 2004 by Peter Hutchinson:

According to folklore, on the Llanos de Urbina near Olintepeque, 6km north of Quetzaltenango, Pedro de Alvarado slew Tecun Ulman in single combat, on 18 February 1524. Tecun Uman had been contracted by the chief of Xelaju(Quetzaltenango). He was forewarned that the Spaniards were coming, and was sent by the Kìche`Kindom to do combat. He lined up 8,000 warriors for the battle. Legend says that Tecun Uman struck Alvarado three times and killed his horse. Alvarado quickly secured another horse and thrust his spear into his enemy`s chest. When Tecun Uman was struck, a quetzal is said to have landed on his chest, and so the story goes as to why the bird has a scarlet-red chest. The river here is still known as Xequizel, the river of blood. Market day is Tuesday and there is an emphasis on animals. The local idol, San Pascual Baillon, has its own little church.

SALCAJA - Town that houses the oldest church in all of Central America, San Jacinto, 1524. It was founded by the conquering Spaniards. Also is known for its textiles, often seen being produced in the streets.

Here is a photo of the dying process of the yarn before it is prepared and woven.

Here you can see yarn after it has been dyed, as it is wrapped around poles in preparation to be weaved. The older person you see has been working this job since he was 8 years old. It is very common to learn the trade of your father at a very young age and continue in that line of work.

Here is a photo of the weaving of the yarn.

All of these skills are learned very early on and passed on from generation to generation...sons learn from fathers at very early years old...sometimes younger.

The textile cooperatives in this town are mainly run by men, unlike the textile cooperative in Zunil that employed mostly women.

AGUAS AMARGAS - Near the town of Zunil, there are hot springs that are fed by volcanic water. They say is is good for the skin and overall health...both to bath in and drink. Bathing in them was fantastic! A bit strange to taste the water...very different...sulfur and minerals due to the volcano. The surrounding area was amazing...beautiful...hiked up a river. All profits go to community projects.

The hike near the hot springs...

CENA - Cena means dinner in Spanish. Every Friday, Utatlan Spanish School has a "cena" for all of the students. Great food and fun to meet others and use newly leaned skills to speak Spanish.

The plan is to leave Xela sometime next week...I will greatly miss this city, its people, its beauty, and its fabulous weather (not hot or humid).

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