Holy week in Guatemala: half the country is at or en route to the beach, it seems (judging from the photos of miles-long traffic jams in the newspaper), and the rest holed up at home. Well, at home or flocking to places like Antigua where there are elaborate processions throughout the week. Luckily I was in Antigua on the one day (Tuesday) where there were no processions but the streets were clogged with foreign and Guatemalan tourists and lots and lots of police. Streets partly blocked off, municipal workers out cleaning up from previous parades and preparing for the new ones.
I had several invitations from friends for this week, most of them for the same day, today (Thursday). I had accepted the first one, from Don Felipe and Doña Lola and so am trying to see if I can manage to visit some other people as well. Popular opinion has it that Doña Lola makes very good tamales, so perhaps I should stop blogging and get out the door for my morning walk so that the tamales won't do too much damage to the waistline.
Chinique was even more quiet than usual when I rolled into town on Tuesday. It seemed that there were fewer trucks and buses roaring through town and threatening damage to parked cars, pedestrians and anything else in their path. Yesterday I noticed that over half of the stores in town were closed; most of the corner groceries were open, but the others were closed and there was only a skeleton crew of vendors and tortilleras in the plaza. Even though the official market days are Friday and Sunday, there are always a few vendors and open-air comedores in the plaza. Yesterday there was one vendor in the actual plaza, one woman sitting on the sidewalk across the street selling ayotes, herbs and some large green leaves (for steaming some kinds of tamales). The ayotes were expensive (Q2 and Q3) but since I had little in the house other than the cabbage, cilantro, onions and pineapple I had bought in Chiché the previous night, and I wanted to make lentil soup, I bought one, and then tomatoes from another vendor down the block -- the only storefront on that little block that was opened. It's a store that normally sells plastic buckets, pails, basins, and they had a small wooden table out front heaped with tomatoes and a few other vegetables.
Friday there are processions throughout the country. I had planned to go to Chichicastenango, because the procession there is supposed to be especially elaborate, and the trajes from Chichi are very beautiful. But then I heard that there is also a procession here in Chinique, so I'm a bit torn. I do have acquaintances in Chichi, some of the staff of Ixmukané, and I had planned to meet one or two of them in the morning, so I will have to decide.
It's an odd place to be a Jew, and an atheist one at that. I had been invited, in theory, to a seder in Antigua, by a woman I'd met at Tom Waters' photo opening ... but although I gave her my card with my phone number and email, I never heard from her. Part of the fun of a seder is sharing it with other people, and since I wouldn't be able to assemble the ingredients (especially matzo -- I suppose I could have tried to make some, but I don't have an oven), and I don't really know enough people who would have been interested to invite, I will just have to content myself with making some charoses when I get back to New York in a couple of weeks.