Salamá to Cubulco
West from Salamá are some interesting villages known for their weavings and annual fiestas. The first of these is San Miguel Chicaj, where the annual fiesta is held September 25–29.
To the west along a wonderfully scenic road, the next town over is Rabinal, founded in 1537 by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas. Rabinal is known for the quality of its pottery and its citrus products as well as for its observance of pre-Columbian traditions, dance, and folklore. The annual fiesta is held January 19–25 and it is by all means dramatic. The highlight is a dance performed on January 23 known as the Rabinal Achi’, which reenacts a battle between the Achi’ and Quiché tribes.
The small Museo Comunitario Rabinal Achi’ (4a Avenida and 2a Calle Zona 3, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) features exhibits on the history and culture of the Achi’ Mayans living in this area. The most interesting exhibit pertains to the effects of the civil war, as the region was particularly hard-hit during the violence. Several mass graves dot the hillsides around Rabinal and about 4,400 victims have been exhumed and reburied in the past few years.
There are a few basic accommodations here. Try Posada San Pablo (3a Avenida 1-50 Zona 1, tel. 7940-0211, $7–12 d), where some of the clean rooms have private bath. The Hospedaje Caballeros (1a Calle 4-02) is another good alternative. Also on 1a Calle is the Gran Hotel Rabinal Achi, harboring large rooms with private bath and a small eatery.
As for services, there is a Banrural on 1a Calle and 3a Avenida, which can exchange your cash dollars. There are hourly buses to Salamá and five daily frequencies to Guatemala City via La Cumbre.
West from Rabinal the road continues up a high mountain pass along some uninhabited territory before plunging into yet another valley to the isolated Achi’ Mayan and ladino town of Cubulco. The main attraction here is (you guessed it) the annual fiesta, with the peak of the action on July 25. This is one of the few places in Guatemala where you can witness the palo volador, a rather dodgy ritual in which dancers spin around a pole with a rope tied around their legs, eventually making it to the ground (most of the time, alive).
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com