A trip to Chichicastenango, a few hours by bus from Antigua, can be an overwhelming experience - but the amazing collection of artisan goods being sold by the artists there make for an unforgettable experience. Artisans - men, women, and their families - make the journey to Chichicastenango each week to gain a wider audience for their goods, and tourists travel hundreds of miles to lay their eyes on this famed market.
I wanted my first visit to the market to be a real Guatemalan adventure, so I grabbed a chicken bus early in the morning that I was told went somewhere in the vicinity of Chichi. This bus dropped me off in a town called Chimaltenango and I wandered the streets a bit before I realized I needed help, and asked some locals where I could catch the next bus to Chichi. They told me to stand on the side of the highway, so I did. There, several buses came and went and finally when I called out for Chichi, the bus driver yelled out something with many other names, but Chichi was one of them, so I hopped on board. This bus was so crowded that my body was being held up by the two elderly women on each side of me as we sped down the highway. When I asked one of them if this bus was going to Chichi, they kept saying "Encuentros, Encuentros" - and this usually means "meeting" or "encounter", so I was pretty confused. Turns out, this bus was dropping me off in "Encuentros" - the place I didn't know existed, and from there I could catch a smaller bus to Chichi. This smaller bus was easy to find as several Guatemalans recognized that my final destination was probably not in the middle of nowhere, Encuentros, and they jostled me towards the waiting mini-bus. I made it to Chichi 3 hours and $4 later, relieved and still a little lost. This little trip reminded me that in Guatemala you just have to fly by the seat of your pants, you shouldn't be afraid to ask questions or for directions, and you just have to keep your head up despite weird smells, close bodies, and lengthy journeys.
Once in Chichi, I followed the sounds of yelling voices and the women carrying large parcels on their heads into the market. What began as just a few stalls on the side of the road, became an incredibly crowded and intricate maze of booth after booth of artisan goods. The artisans were selling everything from textiles, to huipils (the traditional Mayan blouse), to ceramics, paintings, rugs, bags, jewelry, stones, mystery incense, and antique finds. I stopped to marvel at many of the booths, eyes gleaming at the beautiful woven textiles and the amazing carved masks and intricate rugs that I was dreaming of filling my house with. I was here on official (fun) boot business, however, and so pushed deeper into the maze to meet with some amazing artisans who could school me in the processes and meanings behind their beautiful textiles.
I met with several beautiful women who showed me their work, some huipils and other textiles that take anywhere from one to six months to weave by hand. These textiles told the stories of their Mayan heritage, many having symbols of the Quetzal (the national bird of Guatemala), the moon, the sun, the stars, maize (corn, a staple crop here), and the mountains which are revered in Mayan culture. It is amazing to me that these women spend so long on these beautiful textiles and that they are preserving their tradition with each one. With Teysha, we hope to further preserve this amazing tradition of textile weaving by supporting these women and showing them that we value their incredible art and history.
Happily, I loaded my backpack with textile after textile, compiling many years worth of work into an amazing collection of color, history, and tradition. I am so excited to share these textiles and huipils with everyone, and i hope you love these as much as I do. All in all, this trip to Chichicastenango was an eye-opening and rewarding feast for the heart and eyes. I can't wait to return and meet with my new friends and Teysha allies - the beautiful women and families of Chichicastenango!
We will be opening boot orders next week and we can't wait for you to see all of the amazing textile choices we will have this round. Our textiles are made by women all over Guatemala and when we connect with them and buy their textiles, we support their art form and help them to continue their amazing tradition of weaving and telling their stories. We love our artisans!