First you will visit the post-classic Mayan City of Iximche, in Tecpan, Chimaltenango. The site’s name derives from the Mayan name of the Ramon tree (Brosimum alicastrum
), from the words ixim
, meaning literally “maize tree” This was the first city invaded and conquered by the Spanish and it was here that they formed the first capital of Guatemala. However, they had to abandon the city due to constant attacks from the Kakchiquel people. When the Spanish left the city they burned it down, but the Iximche ruins remained. Iximche is a small archaeological site and in 1960 the ruins of Iximche were declared a National Monument. The majority of visitors in Iximche are indigenous Mayan people. Modern Aj q’ijab’
(Maya priests often referred to as ‘Daykeepers’ in English) arrive at Iximche from all over the Guatemalan Highlands to perform sacred Mayan fire ceremonies at Iximche. These often take place behind the ruins, in a ceremonial area. If you do have the opportunity to witness a sacred Maya ceremony whilst visiting Ixmiche Ruins, we ask you to keep a respectful and polite distance and ask before taking any photos. Tourist facilities at the site include visitor parking, a small museum, a picnic area and a football field. The museum is open on a daily basis and displays a number of artefacts recovered from the ruins.
- SAN ANDRÉS ITZAPA San Andrés Itzapa (Itzapa means flint) is an ancient town. The Spanish named the area “Itzapa y de San Andrés” in honor of their patron saint, the apostle San Andrés (Saint Andrew). The Spanish also called the area “Valle del Durazno” (Valley of the Peaches), as the prickly pears common in this area resembled the orchards of home. Here you will have the opportunity to visit the one of the altars of Maximon, San Simon or Ri Laj Mam as he is also affectionately known. A Native American saint who originated from the Mayan Tzutujil tribe in Santiago Atitlan Guatemala, and is now known throughout the world. Maximom is known by worshippers for divine intervention and performing miracles, wherever help is needed. Inside, the walls of the altar are covered with hundreds of plaques and ‘thank you’s’ from all over Guatemala and Central America, thanking San Simón for his help. Indigenous Mayas and Guatemalans visit Maximón to pray, ask for petitions and pay offerings to ask for assistance in all areas of their lives. Offerings are made in the forms of candles, cigars, and other items. Many devotees offer San Simon one of the cigars he loved so much and drink a toast to his effigy. There is also a small shop just outside the altar, should you wish to purchase candles, cigars and more to make an offering to San Simon. Every year on the 28th of October, the feast day of San Simon, thousands of pilgrims from all over Guatemala and even neighboring countries such as Mexico meet in San Andres Itzapa and other San Simon altars across Guatemala, such as Santiago Atitlan and Zunil, to celebrate and thank San Simon. With the marimba, alcoholic drinks, and dancing the atmosphere becomes very festive.
- SAN JUAN COMALAPA San Juan Comalapa is sometimes called the “Florence of America”, because of the many Kaqchiquel painters living there. It is also the birthplace of Raphael Alvarez Ovalle, who composed Guatemala’s national anthem. The painting tradition started in the 1930s, when Kaqchiquel painter Andres Curruchich (1891–1969) started painting with oil. His creativity was noted by many and soon he found himself showing his art in the United States and achieving international success. Because of his success, Curruchiche decided to teach the new generations his form of painting. Today there are some 500 painters in San Juan Comalapa, and the majority of them still use the techniques of Curruchiche. These painters are dedicated to paint the customs, life experiences and traditions of the Indian towns. On entering San Juan Comalapa you will see walls enclosing the school and the cemetery. On these walls the people of San Juan have painted large murals telling the story of the town and its citizens. When observing them, one realizes a couple of things: the great misfortunes they have suffered in the past decades and, most of all, the artists’ great talents. The mural depicts major events in the history of Guatemala including the Maya creation story, the Spanish conquest and more recently Guatemala’s civil war. Two blocks from San Juan’s central park you will find the House of Culture, also known as the museum Rafael Alvarez Ovalle. The new construction, inaugurated in 1984, harbors the personal objects of the author of the Guatemala national anthem.