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Location: Weston, Florida, United States

Obtained a bachelor's degree in political science, a master's in ancient scripture, and a doctorate in educational psychology from BYU. Served with the LDS Church Educational System in Hayward and Palo Alto, California; Athens, Georgia; and Miami, Florida. Served as bishop in Newark, California, and Athens, Georgia, and as stake president of the Sugar Hill Georgia Stake. Served as president of the Mexico City North Mission 1996-99. After retiring from CES in 2004 have served four other missions with my wife: As CES area director in Central America 2004-2006; in Panama 2007-2009; again in Guatemala 2009-2011, this time as executive secretary to the Central America Area Presidency; and finally as a counselor in the Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple presidency, 2013-2014. After returning home, we served in the presidency of the Fort Lauderdale Temple from 2014-2017 and continue to serve as sealer and ordinance worker, respectively. Feel free to email us at, and please check out our new website at

Friday, April 02, 2010

Trip to Chichicastenango and Quiche

With the area presidency all in Salt Lake City for conference, and with the area office closed the last three days of the week for Holy Week, it seemed a good opportunity to take a long contemplated trip to Chichicastenango on a market day. Chichicastenango is a highland Maya city about a half hour or so from the turnoff to Lake Atitlan. It is accessed by going over lots of speed bumps through little villages and down steep and very windy mountain roads and up similar ones on the other side of the valley. Chichicastenango claims to have the largest and most vibrant native market of any city in North or Central America, and maybe in all of the Americas. Normally the market day is on Thursday, but on Easter week they move it to Wednesdays. We went with an Elder and Sister Blackburn, another senior missionary couple who live in the same building we do. We stayed at a little hotel that turned out to be owned by a Church member, though we didn't know it when we made reservations. We were happy that our GPS took us right to the door, as Chichicastenango is a bit confusing with its narrow, often one way streets. We enjoyed seeing the market, eating at a couple of typical restaurants, and taking a hike up a hill south of town to see the site of Pascual Abaj, where there is an ancient carved face at which some of today's Maya still worship and offer sacrifices. On Thursday we drove to the town of Santa Cruz del Quiche (or simply Quiche), about twelve miles north over other windy and sometimes steep and mountainous roads. Our GPS has never heard of Quiche, and didn't even have the road shown a few miles out of Chichicastenango, but we arrived without any problem. We happened to find it was market day in Quiche, so we got to see an even more typical and less touristy market. (The market at Chichicastenango is partly designed for the tourist trade, and at every step someone is trying to sell you something, whereas in Quiche nobody tried to sell us anything.) Friday, being Good Friday, we got to see a few of the "carpets" which the locals make out of leaves, sand, and sometimes vegetables and fruit on the streets, over which religious processions will subsequently pass. The biggest challenge of the trip may have been getting out of town, as we opted to leave right when a religious procession was coming down the main street leading out of town, so we had to find an alternate route along narrow streets better suited to one-way traffic, but on which out of necessity traffic was moving in both directions today. Following are multiple photos and a few videos of some of our favorite sights. Click on any of the photos to see them in larger size.

Eating "pulique," a typical dish served especially at Easter time. It is a type of thick soup with rice and either beef or chicken. Pretty good. We are in a little restaurant owned by a fellow named Tomas, whose establishment was recommended to us by our hotel owner, who is his friend.
This is Tomas, the restaurant owner, dressed up in his festive costume and posing with us.

Typical Chichicastenango market scene, with child on her mother's back.

The San Tomas church in Chicastenango on market day.

Another market scene in front of the church steps

More market

Another child on his mother's back

"Cofrades," or church elders, emerging from the church. There is an interesting mix of Catholicism and paganism (remants of the Mayan religion) which goes on here and which is tolerated by the Catholic Church.

Setting up and taking down the market stalls means moving a lot of heavy stuff with human labor.

Another child on the back of probably his sister.

Taking down his part of the market

More of the same

Young boy carrying heavy load as market closes down.

Main street through Chichicastenango. Note lady with load on her head and colorful bus, with not much room for other vehicles to pass on the right.

Sign on bus says "There is no love like the love of God." Many buses in Guatemala have religious messages on them.

Two full sacks of potatoes on this man's back.

Shrine with fruit and vegetable offerings set up in courtyard of the Hotel Santo Tomas, the nicest one in town (not where we stayed).

Here is our hotel, the Hotel Chalet. It had no parking, and the street in front is too narrow to leave the car parked on it, so we were directed to a private parking garage a couple of blocks away.

More manual labor.

In front of a noted arch in Chichicastenango

Funeral procession in Chichicastenango.

Colorful cemetery in Chichicastenango.

On top of a hill south of town, in front of the ceremonial site of Pascual Abaj

Luis Ignacio, the half brother of our hotel owner, Manuel Toll, performing Mayan ceremonies at Pascual Abaj. (Scanned from postcard bought in his store at the base of the hill.)

A representation of the folk saint Maximon, who is venerated in various villages in the western highlands of Guatemala. He represents something between St. Peter and Judas Iscariot, with probably more in common with the latter than the former. He is placated with gifts of cigars or alcohol and is particularly in evidence at Easter time. We were invited to make a cash donation in return for the privilege of photographing him.

Virginia with the Blackburns on the steps of the main church in Quiche.

Procession going on in Quiche.

LDS chapel in Quiche. We ran into a local member during lunch, who assured us that the branch is thriving.

Adobe home between Chichicastenango and Quiche

Another adobe home on the same road

LDS chapel in Chichicastenango. It is smaller than the one in Quiche, and the branch is reportedly struggling, though Chichicastenango itself is significantly larger than Quiche.

Little girl carrying her littler sister in Chichicastenango.

Representation of Maximon on the steps of the Santo Tomas church in Chichicastenango on Good Friday. The sign is in English and invites people to donate a coin or two to "Judas." The idea seems to be to placate a bully who might do you harm, not to seek blessings at the hands of one with power to grant favors.

"Carpet" under construction on Good Friday morning on street in Chichicastenango.

Another carpet in Chichicastenango.

Religious procession on the main highway between Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango. "Carpets" were build on this stretch of the road (going through a little village), and the road which was normally two lanes in each direction became one lane in each direction to accommodate the procession.

Carpets being built on the main highway.

More of the same.

Market in Quiche. Not wanting to be too obtrusive, I didn't always get great shots as I held a small video camera down below my belt and tried to aim. This and other shots from Quiche were taken off the video.

Another market scene in Quiche. Note that the women's blouses in Quiche are generally different from those in Chichicastenango, and were especially pretty.

Buying meat at the market.

Pigs feet for sale.

More Quiche blouses

Typical Quiche market scene


Going home from the market in Quiche

Scene on main square in Quiche. Note the little red taxi or "Tuk Tuk." The four of us rode in one of these from downtown Chichchicastenango to the hill where we climbed to the ceremonial site of Pascual Abaj.

Mother and son heading home from the market

Man and wife in Quiche

Meat and dry beans, etc., for sale at market in Quiche

Below are three short videos. One is of the cofrades (church or village elders) coming out of the Santo Tomas church in Chichicastenango. One is of a procession in Chichicastenango, and one is of a procession in Quiche. (The slow one is Chichi and the fast one is Quiche.)


Blogger sandra leite said...

Such beautiful photos, thank you so much for sharing in your blog :) I'd love to share some in our Portuguese mayanist facebook page "Yax Balam", the one's with the markets and Sto Tomas church, would you let us do so ? Hugs

2:17 PM  
Blogger sandra leite said...

Such beautiful photos, thank you so much for sharing in your blog :) I'd love to share some in our Portuguese mayanist facebook page "Yax Balam", the one's with the markets and Sto Tomas church, would you let us do so ? Hugs

2:18 PM  

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