Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Women

I am fascinated by the Mayan women. Like women everywhere, they are undoubtedly the glue holding together families. They are distinguished by their brightly colored skirts and blouses, which are, in this day and age, surprisingly modest. The blouses all have sleeves, no cleavage, and the skirts hit below the knees or to the ankles. More about their traditional clothing can be found here.

You see them everywhere with their children, who often sit quietly nearby, or help with the work of the day. These are the most well-behaved youngsters I've ever seen. Even the babies are quiet and rarely cry or fuss, making me wonder if perhaps there's a root or herb all the women know about to give the little ones to pacify them?

The mercado is a central location in town, where the women go to work and to shop and to visit with one another. Pretty much anything available for purchase can be bought at the mercado. My favorite find so far was a 9" x 12" Pyrex baking pan.

The common way to carry a heavy or bulky load is on top of the head.

Meet Mercedes. She has her own fruit stand, and takes care of it herself Monday through Fridays. Although there are many fruit stands just like this one in town, hers is my favorite. When I order mango, she does not include the seed like everyone else does-- it's all the fruit. She is always wiping down her stand to keep it clean, and has the fruit behind a glass rather than out in the open. She asks if you want a bag or a fork. 
I really appreciate how much care Mercedes takes with her little business. To me, she represents the best of the best of Mayan women.


  1. I love how these women are dressed. They are modest and look so beautiful. Mercedes fruit stand is one I would visit most frequently!

  2. The mango made my mouth water and I just love all the bright colors. When we were just in the Bahamas and then came home....I felt like I went from color to black & white. The island was so full of color and at home, things are so much more dull, especially this time of year. Have a great weekend!

  3. That extra care makes a big difference.
    Maybe Guatemalans are just better at parenting?

  4. A lovely blend of colours and words here... you paint such clear pictures, I can almost believe I'm there with you; seeing what you're seeing, tasting what you taste, watching this bright patchwork world wander by. Thanks for sharing :o)

  5. I love the peasant style skirts and blouses and I love the colours. I think they still stick to the basic parenting methods which are the best. They are not reading every book and saying how their child must be free and blah, blah blah. If their child misbehaves, they let the child know-that is discipline which means love. Many here may think it abusive and look at all bad kids-not the kids fault-it's the parents. Now I would go to her stand too-she cares about her business and it shows

  6. I always thought that trick with carrying things on the head is one hell of a feat - good for deportment too :) Good to see someone like Mercedes with such pride in their business and that you recognise her attention to detail too.
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  7. They seem like strong women in body and spirit.

  8. Look at that view, thank you for sharing all those details! Nice to meet and follow through atoz

  9. Hi Karen - lovely photos and just so good to know about the fact the all seem to respect each other .. Mercedes' stall looks a good stopping point to me .. good fruits and a kind word .. cheers Hilary

  10. Hello Karen,
    The Mayan women perhaps not only hold their families together, they most likely are given a great deal of respect - for their modesty, too.
    Lovely place as well as women. It's good to find you.

  11. I love mangoes, and I like those pictures, too; they're very comfortable. I admire those women for working hard and doing what it takes to survive.

  12. One theory about the well-behaved children is that Maya women keep their babies in constant contact for at least the first three years. They carry them on their backs and often share a same sleeping mat or hammock. I'd be careful about assuming too much about respect though. As with the Ladino culture in Guatemala, incidences of gender-based violence and domestic abuse are very high in indigenous households.