My trip to San Marcos la Laguna - My Family Travels

The road from Na’an and Tat’s house to the lake curled down the mountain side like a large kumatz (snake). Standing in the back of the old pick up truck, I was surrounded by 20 Mayan women wearing their huipiles, hand woven blouses. The beautiful embroidered colors on the huipiles made me feel like I was flying with taq lo’rs (parrots) as we drove the San Marcos.  Lake Atitlán looked spectacular as the water reflected with glistening Guatemalan sunlight.

            I was traveling from wachoch (my house) in Santa Clara la Laguna to San Marcos la Laguna, located in the state of Sololá.  I was living in Santa Clara for 3 months while studying Mayan naming patterns.  Since Santa Clara is above the western side of the Lake, I traveled down the steep cliff leading to San Pablo and eventually San Marcos.  However, the trip is much easier and more accessible from Panajachel, commonly called Pana, the tourist town on the north east side of the lake.  From Pana, it is just a short drive standing in the bed of a pick up truck surrounded by Mayans, similar to the one that I was taking from the other direction.

            San Marcos can best be described as the city of Berkeley, California mixed with the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.  The city is most notable for its yoga and meditation centers and some would call it a hippie’s hideaway.  Despite all of the alternative relaxation that San Marcos provides, it has maintained a unique feel.  When walking through the city I felt like a Spanish Conquistador from the 16th century.  Most of the city is accessed through well maintained brick or dirt paths, built right into the jungle.  The city is built like a picturesque Indian village, with huts poking out between Sapodilla trees and jungle vines. 

            In San Marcos there is something for everyone.  Excellent restaurants are found throughout the city.  I stopped at one before heading to the beach and enjoyed the excellent food and service they provided.  Those who seek to relax can find an abundance of places, ranging from the yoga studios to the beautiful beach on the shores of Lake Atitlán.  Indigenous Mayans live in the town, providing a sense of authentic traditionalism for those seeking to escape to pre-Columbian times.  And for those who went to San Marcos for a little excitement, they went with me on the little trail just west of the beach.

            On the west side of the main beach at San Marcos there is a large section of land that juts into Lake Atitlán.  There is a tiny trail that is on local maps of the town which travels along to the other side of the peninsula.  Once there, I had a beautiful view of the Tolimán, Atitlán, and San Pedro Volcanos.  Like giant ceiba trees, they stood overlooking the lake, protecting it.  On the east side of the peninsula there is a large outcropping of rocks that stands around 50 feet above the lake.  Like taq kot (eagles) we soared from the rocks out over the lake.  Like taq xaq (rocks) we fell towards the water.  As each of our heads popped out of the water, we laughed, encouraging the rest to not be scared.  I smiled especially big.  I was experiencing the best cliff jumping that I ever had in my life.

            An ixoq (woman) once told me that she wore the huipil because the beautiful colors on it made her feel strong.  However, I feel that the strength that she felt came from the Mayan culture which can only be found in Guatemala and in San Marcos.  When I left San Marcos, I felt like I had taken a little of that strength with me.  That strength is found in the taq q’aq’ juyub (volcanos), the taq tut (palm trees), the taq awaj (animals), the winaq (people).  It is a special feeling that everyone visiting San Marcos enjoys.


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