Sunday, January 1, 2012

The morning after....

Sunday morning is usually the liveliest time in this very small town, which consists of about 6 streets running roughly east to west, intersected by about 8 streets running north to south.  It is market day (there is a small market on Friday) and usually the streets are relatively bustling with people arriving for the market -- vans and pick-ups stuffed with people coming down from hilltop aldeas and cantones. Markets go on regardless of holidays and feasts -- in some towns, the market is on the main plaza in front of the church, or in front of the municipal building (in some places this is the same square, in other towns, like Chinique, it is not) and is also where most of the activities for the patron saint feast are staged. In Chichicastenango, the market is a series of covered stalls in the center of the main plaza that is bordered by the church, the museum, the municipal building (which also houses the alcaldía indígena), and it goes on all week. However, on market days it expands to several surrounding streets, almost entirely with handicrafts sales and not produce. But when the fiesta comes to town everything goes on around the market.  In neighboring Chiché (neighboring my town, not neighboring Chichi), which just had its fiesta titular, a space in the center of the market square is kind of hollowed out and some arcades and the ferris wheel (here mostly just called "la rueda" -- the wheel) were installed in the center and the regular market vendors pushed out into more of the surrounding streets.

Today, however, the first day of the New Year, I was surprised when I stepped out a little after 7 in the morning to get some milk for my morning coffee (ever since the news broke about 4 cups a day helping prevent endometrial cancer, I feel it is my health-conscious duty to make sure I get my daily dose) and found that the corner store was not open. Usually the small stores that sell a variety of packaged and some fresh foods (there are at least 5 within 3 blocks of my home) are open at around 6 or 6:30 in the morning. People rise early in the country, and there are always a few people on the street at that hour. But the nearest store (I don't usually buy milk there as it is a quetzal more expensive than at my landlord's store which is 3 blocks away) was closed. I had gone there because it was closest; I thought I'd pop out and get milk and make my coffee and then take a walk. So I walked up to my landlord's store and they, too, were closed. Highly unusual. The small store across the street, owned by Doña Adela and Don Juan, grandparents of some friends in New Bedford and the parents of Doña Centa, was open, but they only had powdered milk.

The streets were unusually quiet... scraps of paper, refuse from a few thousand fireworks, strewn across the pavement, and a few people out sweeping it up, including two small girls on the street where my landlord lives, both of whom were a lot shorter than the broom that one was wielding. There is no street cleaning here, or rather, no street cleaning sponsored by the municipality, so one of the daily morning rituals is for people to sweep the street in front of their homes or businesses, or in the case of wealthier families, to have someone sweep the street for them.

On my way back, I looked up the street toward the market and it seemed less full than normal for a Sunday -- fewer vendors, fewer purchasers -- and since I have been back home, fewer people passing in front of my home, and I have not yet heard one of the large, belching, rumbling buses that normally pass by my house en route to Joyabaj or perhaps even Pachalum.

Last Sunday, Christmas Day, was a little bit quieter than usual, but today is dramatically more so.  Maybe it's the weather -- soft gray skies, a light mist in the air, streets somewhat damp, and everyone and everything a bit droopy and subdued.

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