Early during our first morning on Lake Atitlan, the Missus was looking out from the balcony and decided on what She wanted to do.
Looking off to the left, She turned and said, "let's head to Santiago". At first we were going to head down the 400 steps to the Lomas de Tzununa pier, but in the end we decided to head out of the side gate and walk to the village of La Tzununa, and the pier there.
The downhill walk, and the cooler morning air made this 1 kilometer walk pleasant.
Walking down the hill we passed many of the young men and women who work at the hotel walking up the hill. We could just imagine having to make that walk everyday, rain or shine, in the summer heat! Everyone we passed gave us a pleasant "Buenos Dias". We passed two gentlemen, and asked directions to "La Tzununa muelle".......after giving us directions, one of the gentlemen asked us, "Ha-pon-nese?" I pointed to myself, and told him "si, Ha-pon-nese"....I pointed at the Missus and said, "Chee-na....uno, uno". Which for some reason cracked him up.....
Following their instructions we found our way to La Tzununa pier, and soaked up the morning sun while waiting for what the gentleman called the "barco blanco".....
And wouldn't you know it, the first boat of the day was a "white boat".
A short 10 minutes later we arrived at the San Pedro pier. To get to the boats headed to Santiago we had to walk to the pier to the Southeast of town, about a kilometer away. Not a far walk, but there's a "little" hill between the piers. The street is lined with all the gift shops, tourist restaurants, and hotels.
They don't tell you about the "little hill" in the guidebooks. Lucky for us, there was a strategically placed orange juice stand right at the top of the hill.
Ahhh, "Jugo de Naranja"......the pause that refreshes. Freshly squeezed, and the woman running the stand even filtered out the pulp (3 Quetzal - 45 cents):
Kinda sour, but it sure woke me up. From that point on, it was all down hill, literally.
While waiting for our boat to leave, another large boat arrived. It was packed with passengers....
And a ton of cargo.......
All of it was unloaded manually. This guy made at least five trips up and down the pier.
Arriving at Santiago Atitlan, we walked up the dock, past the craft stands and into Santiago. It turned out to be market day.
We were told by more than a few folks that Santiago Atitlan is considered the captial of the Tz'utujil MayanNation. In Santiago, folks still wear the traditional "Traje" (dress) with pride. The men still wear "calzoncillos" (short pants).
I'm guessing that these pants are very practical for folk who live around the water.
Out first stop was the Catholic Church.
If you walk up these stairs, and quietly take a seat inside, you'll notice a monument to the right rear of the church.
Father Stanley Rother was a priest who was assigned to the mission of Santiago Atitlan in 1968. The late 70's through the 80's were turbulent times for Central America, and Santiago was not spared. Because of his work, Father Rother's name appeared on the list of the "Death Squad". Upon hearing that his name appeared on this list, the Parish staff urged Rother to return to his home of Oklahoma City, which he did. Only to ask for permission to, and return to Santiago a few months later. On July 28th, 1981, he was killed in the rectory of the church by gunmen. Father Rother was flown back and buried in his home town in Oklahoma, however, at the request of his parishioners in Atitlan, his heart was brought back to Santiago Stitlan and buried under the floor of the church. This was not the end as things eventually reached a critical mass on the morning of December 2nd, 1990, you can follow the link, or read even more about it here.
Escaping from the persistent kids outside the church, we made our way back to the main intersection. I noticed groups of women walking up the stairs of one of the corner buildings. Our curiosity piqued the Missus and I walked up the stairs to find a pretty active market area.
The items I found the most interesting were the freshwater crabs, with the legs wrapped in strips of leaves to keep them from walking away.
This, of course, left me hungry. The Missus and I walked around a bit trying to decide were to eat. I finally decided based on one of my main eating rules; "when in doubt, eat where the police eat." And in this case, it was a tiny, very clean looking Cevicheria. We sat at one of the three tiny tables, on plastic stools, Vietnam style. Two police, or maybe security officers with shotguns were having an early lunch at on of the other tables. One of the officers was of particular interest to me, he had two bandoliers of shotgun shells criss-crossing his torso, just like the movies!
This was a two man operation with one doing the prep, the other putting together the ceviche.
Three items were served, Ceviche Camarones(shrimp), Pulpo (Octopus), or Mixto (mixed). and though the shrimp and octopus were "Pacifico" (from the Pacific), we thought the ingredients looked very fresh. The Missus ordered a Grande Mixto, easy on the pulpo. 30 Quetzales ($3.75). While we were waiting, the Missus decided some tortillas would go well with the Ceviche, instead of the usual crackers. So She headed across the street........and to the laies making tortillas in front of (what else) one of the Pollo Frito (Fried Chicken) joints.
The tortillas being sold were "yellow" tortillas, corn-y goodness, and the best we had on the entire trip. It was also the most expensive at 3 for 1 Quetzal (12 cents).
We ended up eating a dozen with our ceviche.
And what about that Ceviche? Well, it delicious, but very different from any Ceviche I've ever had.
The marinade was very dark, but wonderful, with a nice savory flavor as a counter-point to the refreshing citrus flavor. The tomatoes were sweet, the white onion was mild and on the sweeter side, and I could taste a light touch of mint as well. When we asked about the sauce (I thought I tasted some soy as well), I thought the very nice young man said "salsa Iglesia" and I was somewhat puzzled,"Church Sauce" just didn't make much sense. But later on I purchased a small cookbook, "Favorite Recipes from Guatemala" in the airport, I found a recipe for Ceviche de Camaron. And it became quite clear, it wasn't Salsa Iglesia, it was "Salsa Ingles", Wocestershire Sauce, along with Soy Sauce that flavored the Ceviche!
I was satisfied after the Ceviche, but the Missus couldn't resist buying a tamal from the young lady wearing the coloful huipil pictured above. It was a funny thing as, the Missus kept asking "Tamale", and kept getting negative nods, "no...no tamale". She kept pointing at the corn husk wrapped tamals, going, "tamale?" And the response would be a "no-no chuchito, chuchito, no tamale!"
Chuchitos are small masa tamal, and unlike the tamals we are used to, Guatemalan tamals are dense and waxy, and tend toward the dry side. This Chuchito, at least by our tastes and preferences, was the best we had, moist, with a nice sweet-tangy-mildly spicy sauce.
The pork was very tough, but the rest was pretty good.
We had the Chuchito and some Agua Pura, while sitting on one of the raised sidewalks.....it was perfect for people.....
And pet watching.
It was starting to get crowded, which we took as a sign to get moving along. But I just wasn't ready to leave without getting a little "something small to eat".........