Sights and Recreation
Santiago’s colorful market really gets going on Fridays and Sundays, when the town’s streets are filled with vendors and Mayan women dressed in the town’s spectacular purple costume. The men wear interesting striped shorts, though it seems in fewer numbers every year.
Standing prominently in the central plaza, the Iglesia Parroquial Santiago Apóstol was built between 1572 and 1581. Inside lining the walls are wooden saints dressed in clothes made by local women and renewed yearly. At the far end of the church are three sacred colonial altarpieces refurbished with more Mayan-inspired motifs by two local brothers between 1976 and 1981. The altarpieces represent the three volcanoes in the vicinity of Santiago, which are believed to protect the village. Local creation myths distinguish them as the first dry land to emerge from the early seas. The wooden pulpit has interesting carvings, including corn and animal figures.
The town’s newest attraction is the Museo Cojoyla (9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sat., free), a block up the street from the main dock, on the left, with displays on Santiago’s artful legacy of traditional backstrap weaving.
Atitlán and Tolimán Volcanoes are tempting climbs from town but unfortunately have been the scene of robberies, a problem that unfortunately seems endemic in the Lake Atitlán area. Check with the local lodges on the security situation and for reliable guides who might be able to take you there, should you wish to venture on the path less traveled.
Jim and Nancy Matison (tel. 7811-5516 or 5742-8975, wildwest [at] amigo [dot] net [dot] gt) offer recommended horseback riding and wilderness hikes throughout the area, though they no longer offer trips to San Pedro Volcano because of the state of the trail in the aftermath of Hurricane Stan.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com