Our Take on Todos Santos Cuchumatan, Guatemala February 2021

Main street in Todos Santos where the local men hang out to people watch.

Always be Respectful

Todos Santos is a traditional indigenous village in the mountains at 8,000 feet. The local language is ‘Mam’ from the ancient Mayans but they also speak Spanish. We learned how to say ”How are you?” in Mam and most people seemed delighted. In the year 2000 a Japanese man and his Guatemalan bus driver were killed by an angry mob when visiting tourists where taking photos in the market. The locals believed they were there to steal children. We took extra care to be respectful!

The mountains are often shrouded in clouds at this elevation.

Cool Clothes

Both the men and women wear traditional dress. This is one of the only remaining villages in Guatemala were the men still have traditional clothing. The men all wear red and white striped pants with a mostly white stripped shirt with cuffs and collars made of individual hand woven colorful patterns. The women wear multi colored dresses set on a black background and beautiful fringed aprons.

Great examples of the local Mayan garb.

Got Spooked, but Luckily We Stayed

Our first night we wandered around until we got spooked by some drunks that followed us like zombies. Not many tourists have been through these parts lately and we were the ONLY foreigners in town. But the next day we had a great time getting to know locals that wanted to have a drink with us, or wanted to take our picture, or were just curious about who we are and where we came from.

Locals were curious about us and happy to chat. Luckily Ian speaks Spanish, because learning Mam was pretty tricky!

Fun at Funky Museum

We visited a museum that was actually a family’s home and farm with a very small, dark and musty smelling collection of items. Some ranged from 2,000 years old! Our guide played some marimba music for us and sold Ian one of his shirts for a good price.

Our museum guide and creator of the museum, Fortunato, playing us a sample of marimba music.
A photo showing the famous yearly horse race in Todos Santos. A younger Fortunato is on the far left, center.
Ian, Fortunato and I in front of Museum Balam.

Very Small Ruins

A relatively short hike up and out of town leads to some ancient Mayan ruins which are mostly covered by earth and grass. On the way we stopped and chatted with a sheep herder boy with his sheep in a field of corn. We didn’t take his picture.

At the top of the ruins the locals still practice some pagan rituals.

Bustling Market Day on Saturday

Saturday is market day, so we woke at 7 AM to the busy sounds of villagers selling and buying everything from shoes to live turkeys. We bought an individual sheet of Ibuprofen from a lady with a whole table of pills and medicines which had been dumped out of their boxes. People come from all the neighboring villages to sell and buy on market day.

Vibrant hand stitched belts sold in the market.

Travel Tip: there are no colectivos or buses in Todos Santos on Sunday so plan accordingly.
We had planned to leave on Sunday by colectivo but after waiting around a bit and asking questions we had to pay 125 quetzales for a taxi to take us up the dirt road half an hour to the main highway in order to flag down a colectivo (10 quetzales each) to Huehuetenango an hour away. You can see the price difference between taxis and local transportation!

Ian sports his new shirt in Todos Santos. Adios!

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