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Guatemala es una gran aventura ! – Episode 2

Guatemala: Tikal
In the evening, at the bar that dominates the Panajachel pier, beer is colder and the steak is more tender. But we should not linger too long, as there are many places to discover in Guatemala. And, after a good meal, what is better than going shopping?

Chichicastenango

If it’s Tuesday, it’s Belgium, if it’s Wednesday or Saturday, it must be Chichicastenango (Chichi, to put it more simply). All the guides boasted the Chichi fair as being the best fair in the area, perhaps even all around Central America, so we got up in the morning, Adriana put on her Maya-chic look and we left to the fair… boarded on a chicken bus with dozens of locals heading towards the shopping Mecca in the mountains… And, once arrived there, we really had a lot to see… hardly had we got off the bus, when we met stalls, stalls selling clothes, handicraft objects, paintings, fruit, vegetables, shoes, sandals, fake CDs and anything else that might  interest the Mayans and the tourists who do not miss the fair. Among the makeshift stalls, Mayan women with children tied on their backs, Ladinos with cigarettes in the corner of their mouths, “amazed” American tourists, a colorful crowd are watching, negotiating, buying or drinking a cup of tea. And, when things go well, you climb a few steps to the church of San Tomaso where you keep alive the fire that makes the Mayan gods happy, but does not please the extremely red eyes of those around… The church is yet another proof that the Catholic religion was imposed with the sword upon the locals, in the statues of Jesus, the Virgin Mary or of San Pedro, being hidden local deities who were persecuted by the Spanish conquerors. Actually, in recent decades, the U.S. corporations of the United States have made numerous proselytes in Guatemala, actually about 20% out of the population is of the country being of North-American neo-Christian religion. The underfunding of the Catholic Church, the bias in favor of forces that have massacred hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans (except the untouchable “Church of Liberation” which gave many martyr priests to Guatemala), the lack of contact with reality have led to a remarkable decline of Vatican despite the visit of Pope John Paul II in the early ’90s.

I buy a fabric depicting the Mayan god of medicine from the market, so as to make whole my collection on the walls at home. Adriana stealthily takes pictures of locals who believe that, if you photograph them, the evil camera steals their soul… three years ago, in Chapas, seeing the cameras, women used to hide their children in terror…. Here, at Chichi, they just throw angry glances.

The mountains in the central area of the country house numerous towns and villages where local traditions are still respected by the majority of the Mayan population. But, farther to the north, near the border with Mexico and Belize, in the middle of the jungle, lies Tikal, the impressive city, one of the most important cities of the Mayan civilization, an obligatory stop for those interested in Mayan history alongside with Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Palenque (Mexico) or Copan (Honduras).

From the centre of the country, in the capital area, you can get on a bus to take you to Flores in about 10 hours or, more comfortably, the plane for an hour; Flores is the nearest city to the Tikal archaeological site. So, early in the morning, we haunt in the La Aurora airport looking for the internal flight train terminal. From here, the ancient aircrafts of the TAG company, some dating since the 1950s, leave to Flores between 7 and 8 am. There are some planes in the hangar that leave depending on the number of customers that appear at the airport… Installed in the aircraft without a door to the pilot’s cockpit, a brave plane which was the latest fashion of civil aviation in the days of Elvis Presley, we leave the Guatemalan mountains, to the plain jungle of the North. After landing, I cannot refrain from breathing with relief…

The town of Flores is located on an island connected by a bridge in the middle of a small lake. Before the arrival of the conquistadors, the island was a sacred city for the Mayans, here being only impressive temples and pyramids, but nothing was left out of them behind the civilizing anger of the Spanish. The current town has a vague colonial architecture, being a tourist city – the vast majority of buildings are hotels, restaurants, bars, the locals living in Santa Elena, the suburb on the “continent”.

From Flores, a minibus takes you to Tikal in about an hour. Tikal was founded around the year 230 by King Yax Moch Xoc, but his golden period will be around the year 700, during Lord Chocolate (also known as the Moon King of the Double Comb), the 26th successor of the founder. The city has fallen around the year 900 and, like all the rest of the major Mayan cities of the Yucatan Peninsula, it was mysteriously abandoned by its inhabitants, leaving the care of the conservation of this impressive city to nature. In fact, leaving the cities and their “disappearance” in the jungle have allowed many Mayan towns to survive until today, or else they would have been long destroyed by Conquistadors.

The magic of Tikal comes from the fact that, unlike the other Maya sites in Yucatan Mexican, the flora and fauna here have been removed to a minimum, the impressive pyramids rising practically out of the green of the jungle. In addition, the place is inhabited by a large number of birds and animals, including howler monkeys, a kind of cute marmots called in Spanish “pisote” or by two shy jaguars hiding during daytime,, hunting only at night. Actually, along with a Dutch lady and a German tourist, we played with a pisote who was eager for biscuits …

The skyscrapers of the classic Maya era were built in Tikal – the tallest temple, Temple IV is no less than 64 metres tall… from here, from the top of the pyramids, the Mayan priests used to sacrifice the prisoners of war, snatching their hearts and throwing their corpses from high up in the skies… Acropolis, the sacred temples or the temples that you can climb, rising above the jungle are architectural jewels. And the green panorama interrupted by the peaks of pyramids makes you forget the efforts made in their ascent.

To my surprise, the touristic marketing of Tikal only communicates about Maya, about temples, their religion, the mystery of the mass leaving of the city, etc., but does not mention a word about a “magnet” that would attract thousands of fans – here, in Tikal , in the 1970s, was shot the first “Star Wars” film (now episode 4 – “a New Hope”), Tikal being planet Yavin 4, the rebel base from where Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and the rest of the space force which destroyed Darth Vader’s Death Star took off … in fact, the impressive taking off the rebel forces was shot from temple IV of the son of King Chocolate…

Guatemala is an extremely diverse country with a traditional culture that still survives in this 21st century, where you can enjoy the impressive architecture of the Mayan kingdoms or the Spanish colonial art, where you can feel the humiliation and repression of the local population that began around the 1500-something and still continues today, but you cannot refrain from noticing their strength in front of history and the present, too, where you can enjoy mangoes, guavas, avocados, or any other exotic fruits or a well-grilled lomito… And if that is too much for you, relaxing beaches of the islets in Belize are within walking distance…

Pictures of Guatemala:

Guatemala: The market from Chichi

Guatemala: Chichi

Guatemala: Masks

Guatemala: Chichi

Guatemala: Chichi

Guatemala: Chichi

Guatemala travel: Visit Chichi

Guatemala airport

Guatemala travel: Flores airport

Guatemala travel: Guesthouse Flores

Guatemala travel: Flores

Travel to guatemala: Flores

Guatemala: Internet cafe

Guatemala: Tikal

Guatemala: Tikal

Tikal Guatemala: the temple

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala: the temple

Travel to Guatemala: visit Tikal

Guatemala travel: pisote

Travel to Guatemala: Tikal

Guatemala: Tikal

Guatemala travel: Tikal

Guatemala: Tikal

Guatemala travel: Tikal Star Wars

Travel to Guatemala: visit Tikal

Guatemala: Tikal

Guatemala: Tikal

Guatemala travel: Tikal

Guatemala: Tikal

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    My name is Cezar (where the nickname "Imperator" comes from) and I have travelled to 105 countries around the world. In this blog, I would like to share with you stories, memories, travel tips & tricks and news to help you plan your journeys !

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