On Sunday morning, we loaded into a boat and traveled across the lake to Santiago to enjoy the day there before the real work begins on Monday. Santiago is a wonderful town and the largest on Lake Attilan. The people are very welcoming and quite interesting. They are more into fashion, so you will see them wearing their traditional garb, but with a modern twist to it.
As you can see, the lake has one of the most spectacular views in the world. It boasts several volcanoes which surround the lake with three very close together which makes for a postcard photo. Traveling across the lake is very tranquil and quite therapeutic. The lake is probably the best tourist attraction in the country. Both Guatemalans and Americans come here for vacation.
Once we arrived in Santiago, we visited a Cooperative that teaches the weaving techniques and attempts to keep this fading are alive in Guatemala. It can take weeks for a single garment to be made and is very expensive for the locals to purchase.
In many ways, Santiago is typical of what you will find in Guatemala, especially in the rural areas. The streets are very narrow with store fronts all along the street. The vendors make their living selling their wares to tourist. Guatemala gets around 1.5 million tourist a year. Unfortunately, they should be able to attract more tourist and the Mayan people do not benefit as much as they should due to a lack of education and a corrupt government. The government is getting better and there are hopes that the new president and his administration will help all Guatemala benefit. With nearly 75% of Guatemalans living below the poverty level, there is much room for improvement.
Once again, we visited the main cathedral in Santiago. So much of their culture and daily life centers around the church. When the Spanish came to Guatemala, they imported the Catholic faith. Today, you will find it mixed with Mayan beliefs and gods as the Spanish attempted to integrate the two religions in order to conquer the nation. They also built cities like Santiago in order to get the population centered to better control them.
Guatemala is a paradise for those looking for outdoor activities. You can hike to ancient Mayan ruins, climb volcanoes, paragliding off mountains and so much more. Outside our hotel at Lake Attilan, we saw several paragliders, coming off nearby mountains. If you can imagine yourself doing this, you must visit Guatemala.
On Monday, we will visit our first schools. Many of the participants are looking forward to seeing the students. Stay tuned as I will be blogging about the first day in the schools.