Guatemalan Indians in their colourful garb flock from the highlands, west of Guatemala City, to enjoy folk music, dance and outlandish spectacles at Chichicastenango’s Festival of Saint Thomas. Witness a melting pot of music, dance, art, craft and racial culture.
Women wear the traditional multi-coloured huipile (blouse) and a skirt known as acorte, made with startlingly colourful natural dyes. The masked and costumed dancers of the baile de la conquista, a satirising carnival pageant on the conquering of the Americas, transforms ‘Chichi’ into a rainbow of colours.
Images of the patron saint are paraded through the streets, strong incense pours from the church and there are firecrackers, rockets, drums and brass bands that assault the senses. Don’t miss the special maypole, where participants wrapped in rope start from the top of the pole and unravel themselves bit by bit as they spin round.
The church of Santo Tomás, opposite the market, is the focal point of the festival. When you enter, do not use the side doors – it is regarded as disrespectful. A glimpse of the church interior reveals a mix of Catholic and Amerindian culture, especially evident in the religious celebrations of the festival.
Website: Chichicastenango Website