Lake Atitlan is truly a sight to behold. Three volcanos surround this very deep lake (480 metres), as well as 12 villages named by the Spanish after the twelve apostles. The villages are inhabited by the Maya, who of course speak their own languages. In every village there is a possibility to learn Spanish, living with a local family, and many people will remind you of this and offer you this as you walk along. Of course in truth Spanish is a second language for the locals, though I believe that might be a good thing for a beginner: after all they had to walk the same path of learning as you will. A minibus (another very early start, and it takes three hours from Antigua) took me to Panahachel, from where one can connect by boat to other villages on the lake.
First view of the lake, in Panahachel:
Fishermen in the San Juan village:
The streets of San Juan:
A pier in San Pedro village:
The cathedral in Santiago village. I thought the staircase was inspired by a Maya temple:
During the civil war Santiago was in the centre of the conflict. At a certain moment the army executed 18 peaceful protesters, which led to further protests. After a while the army was forced to leave Santiago, and it became the first township which the Maya managed to liberate from the army. The Cathedral has commemorative plates recounting this story.
The view from the Cathedral:
Inside the Cathedral:
Afterwards I was also shown a hut in Santiago which this year houses the Mashimun, a local god. Mashimun is represented by a statue which is flanked at all times by two shamans who sit by each side. Paradoxically in the same room there is a statue of a lying Jesus, as in current Mayan syncretist beliefs the Catholic and native figures coexist.
Local women prepare corn tortillas at the Santiago market:
Grains of coffee at the local market: