Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dia de Feria in SAN MARTIN

Visiting the small town of San Martin, north of Antigua, was one of the most delightful days I have ever spent in Guatemala. It was a real feast for the eyes, and needed encouragement that perhaps not all Guatemalan culture had been supplanted by Levis, t-shirts and video games or rap music. It was the religiouns feast day of San Martin, an annual event. In addition to imported entertainment consisting of SIX ferris wheels, there were many additional kiddie rides, video games, hundreds of booths of plastic toys and assorted Chinese junk items . There were food booths, fortune tellers (a parakeet picked out your rolled up printed paper fortune), con men with shell games, windup toys demonstrations, and assorted games of chance. Ferris wheel rides were 5 quetzales each, about $.75. They were jammed once mass was over. Music blared. Bodies tightly jammed the aisles in this ephemeral, fun-city-for-a day creation.

The real event, however, took place in the church. It was the main annual event, a city-wide mass, and people streamed in and out all morning long. Penitants prayed on the hard concrete floors if the benches were full. There were long lines at the confessional, and the many saints were decked out in wonderful fresh flowers, satin fabrics, perched on wooden platforms to carried through the street as part of the procession after mass. There were three women's 'cofradias' (religious brotherhood, sisterhood) at this particular church, and the women from the various groups wore yellow, blue or green ribbons entwined in their long braids to distinguish them. The men were in black and white. Rumor had it the bishops from Guatemala City came to perform the mass. White veils came out and were placed on heads when the women entered the church or began the procession, and they all wore their best 'huipiles', their 'sobre huipiles' (ceremonial blouses) on top of their usual dress. The women were friendly and loved to show us their beautiful clothes. A particularly sweet two little old ladies spoke with us, a mother and daughter, probably 70 and 85 years of age. They were thrilled to have their pictures taken, and held hands and giggled throughout.

We found a sparse little restaurant on a side street, Cafe of the Full Moon, run by an American man and his Guatemalan wife. He was off traveling; she spoke perfect English, and had graduated from a hotel/restaurant community college program outside Portland, Oregon! Somehow she got talked into moving back home to this teeny little town of 3800 and into opening a restaurant with her husband and three children; we had the feeling she knew her talents were being underutilized; she had returned home after school to work for Nestle in the capital in food development before getting married. Her food was delicious, she purified all vegetables, etc. before cooking, rather unusual in that tiny a town. A lot of fun.


  1. Judy, This is beautiful! We finally were able to open the blog so will look at the rest. Thanks. Maybe you can help us create a blog for our Oaz=xacan sojourn...Helenmarie

  2. The full moon cafe. I know mark who owns the place.I was there for 3 months. A really great place. Glad to hear about your trip. Brought back memories.