Guatemala holds a special place in our hearts. It’s where we first met in the auspicious year of 2012.
We hang out in the village of San Marcos la Laguna, on Lake Atitlan.
I first came across this place by recommendation from a massage therapist in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. I was on my way back to the lake after a six week journey through the Maya lands, returning to the most beautiful place of the whole trip.
I was going to Santiago village because that’s where I had been the first time, and it was lovely. But this man said, “You have to go to San Marcos, it’s like a whole village of healing and spirituality.”
No further encouragement needed!
So to give you a picture of the place… It is a small village with only two car roads, the rest of the town is little winding 2-person-wide lanes of stone or dirt overhanging with trees and flowers.
All around the lake there is a high population of Indigenous Maya – in San Marcos they’re mainly Kaqchikel people. They call the women the hummingbirds of the lake – they are so colourful in their traditional dress. You can often hear Indigenous languages floating past your ears.
It’s one of those friendly towns where everyone you pass says “Buenos dias”. Or you could try to Kaqchikel greeting of “Utz awach” – sounds like oots a watch – meaning “is your health good?” (Reply “Utz matyox” – sounds like oots mat ee osh – meaning “good thank you”).
As my friend had told me, there are loads of healing, meditation and yoga offerings here, including retreats, workshops and many of the practices of yoga which are not so common in the west – like kirtan and tantra.
You can learn many healing arts, creative arts and ways to live a naturally healthy harmonious life – I’m talking anything from the way you build your house to the way you breathe. You can soak it all in, or you can be the giver – If you have any offering which aids self-development and raises consciousness this is the place to share it with an open-minded crowd.
Some of the amazing offerings we love are East-West Centre, The Pyramids, Kavaliya Yoga Ashram, Hanuman Project, and The Yoga Forest. Check out what’s going on at The Sanctuary, it’s potentially life changing! Katherine at The Holistic Cottage organises The Festival of Consciousness annually in March – its a good time to be there to get a taste of all the inspiring things happening at the time (details are on facebook).
The chocolate ceremonies at Keith’s are not to be missed! (Having said that I’ve never actually met Keith yet, but I’ve done plenty of chocolate ceremonies). If you haven’t yet developed an unconditionally loving relationship with chocolate, this is the place to do it. And I mean real cacao – this stuff is grown and handpicked locally for a fair trade price. It’s prepared to maintain the essence of cacao, and mixed with water to a medicinal dose. Served with your preferred amount of raw sugar (panela) and cayenne, it is strong, bitter and heavy. It is medicine after all! Medicine for opening your heart – for inviting you to the door of change, but not pushing you through. Your intention brings the medicine, the love, the lightness, the laughter, to where it is needed.
Mayan ceremony is a supreme blessing of this region. You can join Tata Pedro or another Daykeeper for a fire ceremony to honour and give gratitude to all of life. The ceremony has a certain purpose depending on the day, and then brings in the 4 directions (plus 3), the 20 Nawals, or energies of the day, and the 13 numbers. The ceremonies that I have experienced here are intimate, you get involved and are invited to bring your energy and intentions to the ceremony – it’s not a tourist activity, it’s a sacred connection.
One amigo recently commented that of all the ceremonies around the world, he finds the Mayan ceremonies to be the most richly beautiful. It’s true there is a lot of colour, fragrance and beautiful offerings, plus it’s very special to have the significance of the parts of the ceremony explained. If you are new to ceremony – this is a great one to start with. I’ve experienced ceremony from perhaps a dozen different lineages, and this is the one that I feel most connected to. I’m sure this won’t be the last that you will hear from me about the Maya!
So whether you want to retreat in silence or find your voice, to connect inwardly or manifest outwardly, it can happen in San Marcos in beautiful ways.
And be warned – a common story you will hear on the lake is “I came for a week and it’s been six months”, “I came for a month and that was 3 years ago”. It even happened to me – I went there for 4 days and stayed for 2 months, because I fell in love! But that’s another story.
The Japanese restaurant has a special place in our hearts coz it was the very first meal we had together on the night we met, plus its run by a wonderfully extravagant lady, I could just sit and listen to her speak Spanish all night. Oh, and the food is awesome and cheap and there is often live music.
There are stalls of local food around town where you can find a fresh and filling meal for about $3. Plus lots of stalls of fresh fruit and veg. It’s totally a health-foodies paradise!
On the topic of food though, it is a parasite’s wonderland. Be prepared with your most potent natural anti-parasitic. We favour grape seed extract – in liquid form to make it easy to add to the vege washing water or rub over a piece of fruit when you are on the road. Some people like neem extract or lemongrass disinfectant. We acquired a particularly nasty bug (probably giardia) just before our departure, and gave it a pretty decent knock on the head with a combo of the GSE, myrrh tincture, raw garlic, clove powder and black walnut extract. Probiotic foods help too. It’s not a guaranteed fate – some have been known to bypass it by washing all veges and taking GSE regularly.
So, as you might have guessed, we quite like talking about San Marcos la Laguna – if you are heading there and have any specific questions – please ask us!!
And actually many of you, our friends, have put your energy into San Marcos – supporting a local nutrition program – Konojel – for the last 3 years. We’ll update you about that soon.
(“I am another you” – Mayan Greeting)
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