You are currently viewing Chichicastenango


Twice a week the main square and surrounding streets of Chichicastenango are transformed into the largest open air market in Central America. People come from miles around to buy and sell goods. Some are grown, some are reared, and many are hand-made. When we have visited in years past, there have been hundreds to thousands of tourists combing the market for bargains, but this year was very different.

We have always wanted to stay at Hotel Santo Tomás, but it was always completely full, forcing us to stay in some of the other hotels in town. This year we had no trouble booking 2 large rooms. And when we checked in, we found out we were the only guests in the entire hotel. They told us if we wanted to use hot water to call them and they would turn on the boiler for us. They were not running it because the hotel was empty. That probably meant the other hotels in town were also empty. And that probably meant there were no tourists in town for the market.

Mercado Central

The market was very different from years past. Gone were the pushy sales people who would follow the tourists around until they bought trinkets, souvenirs, and other junk. This time the market was mostly business. Buy corn here. Buy meat here. All sorts of fresh vegetables are for sale inside this building. Etc. I was expecting to get harassed to get my shoes shined, since that has always happened in the past, but this year nobody ever asked. In fact, I don’t think I even saw a single person shining shoes anywhere.

Covid has really changed things. As we talked about how much tourist money has stopped flowing into the town in terms of hotel rooms not booked, restaurants not filled, ice cream not sold, trinkets not bought, etc. The impact is enormous.

I’m not much for shopping, especially when there’s nothing I’m trying to buy. I didn’t last too long before sitting up on the steps of the big church and just watching the commerce happen. The steps were in the shade of the church and there was a nice cool breeze. I sat with Charmaine and watched flower vendors, mouse trap vendors, and corn vendors for about 45 minutes before heading back to the hotel to enjoy the garden.

El Jardin

Hotel Santo Tomás has a huge central garden that they have pruned and cared for over many years. It’s really stunning. The fountains were not filled or running, but they were still beautiful. The gardens also have a surprise. The hotel has a whole host of macaws and other parrots they bring out into the garden during the day. It was a lot of fun to engage the birds and get them to talk. Most of them knew a few words and phrases in Spanish and some could also say “Hello.”

It was quiet except for the birds. Some of the birds got off their perches and climbed down into the garden to pick flowers before returning to their perch where they ate the flowers one petal at a time. It was very enjoyable and relaxing to sit and watch them. A few of the smaller parrots shared perches with each other. They really seemed to enjoy hanging out with one another and it almost seemed as though they were talking back and forth. Sometimes they even sounded like they were laughing.

There were three big macaws – two up front and one in the back. As we approached the one in the back, he climbed down his perch as if he was preparing to climb onto our shoulders or arms and go for a ride. He has very large claws, so we didn’t want him to climb onto us. His claws would easily pierce our clothes, even if he was trying to be gentle.

After a little while everyone came back from the market. We bought a few ice cream cones at the Sarita across the street and headed off to our next adventure.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.