East of Santa Cruz del Quiché
The road east from Santa Cruz del Quiché runs along the Sierra de Chuacús through some villages set in verdant agricultural fields and is newly paved, ultimately winding up in Guatemala City some 160 kilometers away. The first of these villages, 10 kilometers away, is Chiché, which shares similar characteristics with Chichicastenango and has a Wednesday market. Farther along are the towns of Chinique and Zacualpa.
Known as Pamaca in Postclassic times, Zacualpa has Thursday and Sunday markets and features the restored Iglesia del Espíritu Santo, with an elegant facade featuring twin bell towers punctuated by a third atop a curved central rise.
Next along this road is Joyabaj, which was practically leveled to the ground in the 1976 earthquake. It was rebuilt and is the main regional market center. It is one of three places in Guatemala where you can witness the palo volador ritual in which two “dancers” twist around a pole while tied with ropes, eventually descending to the ground. The event takes place during the annual fiesta, usually the second week in August.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com