Between finishing classes, doing some final wandering around Antigua, and travelling, we didn’t have a chance to connect to the Internet over the weekend. We’re now in San Marcos de laguna, a small town on the north shore of Lake Atitlan, but on Saturday we wandered into areas of Antigua we had missed so far, and visited the ruins of Catedral de Santiago, built in 1542 – one huge column had been left where it fell during one of the city’s many earthquakes in the 1700’s that eventually convinced officials to move the capital from what then became Antigua (“old”) Guatemala to Nuevo (“new”) Guatemala. Big chunks of the ceiling are gone, especially the elaborate domes, and the vast underground crypts are empty but still creepy. It was a huge building at the time with numerous ornate chapels, carvings, and statues: an extravagant show of the power of the Catholic Church, in this case financed by the king of Spain. Sadly, Spain’s wealth at the time came from taking resources and enslaving the people from the lands they conquered. Antigua does lay claim to a modest offset – the only sainted Guatemalan, Hermano Pedro, devoted his life to working here with the poor, hungry, and diseased in the 1600s. By the way, it is the rebuilt façade of the cathedral, facing a traditional town square, that one often sees in brochures and ads promoting tourism to Guatemala.
On Sunday we stuffed into a mini-van (“colectivo”) with 10 other tourists heading for San Marcos or San Pedro. At high attitudes we were driving through heavy misty rain, but as we approached the area of Lake Atitlan, the sun came out and the lake came into view, and down a very narrow, steep, winding road we reached San Marcos. People were gathering at a covered basketball court on the main road and after we checked in we returned and there were a few hundred people gathered for a community feast and music provided by a 14-piece marimba and brass orchestra. We listened for a while and went for a late lunch. When we returned because we could hear the band was still playing, there was only a handful of people left, the tables and chairs had been cleared, the food was gone, but the orchestra was in full swing as if there was a full house. We couldn’t find anyone with enough English to be able to tell us what the occasion was. It was a Sunday but there was no obvious church or religious connection that we could see.