Market Life in Santiago Atitlán

Hoy was mi primero tiempo going to the mercado in Santiago Atitlán. Santiago is the town diagonally across the lake from the Mystical Yoga Farm. To get to any other towns from the farm (other then the village of Chacaya), we have to take a boat to Santiago first.

Santiago is a mostly indigenous Mayan community of around 50,000 people on Lake Atitlán. The locals speak Tz’utujil (pronounced two-two-hill). There are a handful of ex-pats who also live in Santiago.  Women and most of the young females wear traditional woven stripped long skirts and huipiles, shirts embroidered with colorful birds and flowers. Some older men still wear white-striped embroidered pants. It’s incredible to see most of the community still abiding by tradition. The vibrant colors and patterns are hypnotizing.

I went to the market with Pedro, the farm chef who’s a Santiago local, and Elise, another volunteer at the farm. I thought I went to the market the last time I visited Santiago, but I missed the whole indoor section, which is the meat of the market. I only ventured as far as the outdoor vendors, where all the other gringos go. It was awesome having Pedro as a guide.

The market is where all the locals buy their food. It’s an open-air outdoor market with multiple floors. We entered the market at the meat section. The smell of raw meat instantly infiltrated my nostrils. I sucked in my breath so the smell couldn’t completely take over. Skinny, stray dogs brushed past my feet. Dirt, skins of vegetables, trash, empty chip bags and plastic bags covered the concrete floor.

One of the meat storefronts

One of the meat storefronts

As Pedro bargained piña prices, I looked around. I felt like a giant as five foot tall men and women quickly weaved their way through the narrow paths between fruit and vegetable sellers, bumping into me like I wasn’t even there. On the first floor people mainly sold fruits, vegetables and meat. Women lined the staircases, sitting on each step with baskets of dried beans, rice, fish or tortillas.

Overview of the market

Overview of the market

I walked around in awe as barefooted women swerved in between each other while balancing baskets of food on their heads. Meanwhile I almost slipped on aguacate grinds multiple times.

Another view of the market

Another view of the market

Chicken!

Chicken fingers!

Fish

Baskets of pescado

More fish

More fish

Elise and Pedro

Elise and Pedro

The outside of the market

The outside of the market

I followed one woman who balanced a huge bouquet of beautiful flowers on her head while carrying her baby on her back. This was the closest picture I could get.

Balance

Balance

Observing how other cultures function on a day-to-day basis is so fascinating to me. I feel energized and alive as I take in new surroundings. I love experiencing how different life is in different parts of the world, regardless if it’s pretty or challenging or ugly or bittersweet. Traveling opens your eyes and broadens your perspective to reality in ways that nothing else can.

To get to the local mercado in Santiago:

Pedro lead us through back roads to enter at the meat section, but you can enter from main roads as well. From the dock: walk up the main road. Turn left at the restaurant El Pescador. That’s where the outdoor vending begins. I went on a Friday, which is a busier day.

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2 thoughts on “Market Life in Santiago Atitlán

  1. Hola April,
    Loved this post of yours. So happy that you are exploring the local culture there. It sounds and looks wonderful. Un gran abrazo, Tio Doug

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