Todos Santos, Guatemala - #AtoZtravel

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Todos Santos is a village high up in the Cuchumatanes mountains of Guatemala that hubby and I visited back in 2009 during our month in Guatemala.

Although Todos Santos is just 40km from the well-known transport hub Huehuetenango (where I had one of my most memorable travel sleeps) it's not a place you would pass through or stumble across without planning to. The 40km distance is a three-hour trip winding through the 3500m Cuchumatanes mountain pass in a old US school bus that is well past it's warranty. Indeed there were moments when I wondered if the crowded bus was going to make it, or if we would start rolling backwards!

the village of Todos Santos, Guatemala - 2009
the village of Todos Santos, Guatemala - 2009

Most famous for its annual festival that is celebrated over All Saints Day ('Todos Santos means 'all saints' in English), Todos Santos was a fairly popular tourist destination in the 1990s until a Japanese tourist and his Guatemalan guide were lynched to death in 2000 by locals who thought they were trying to kidnap local children.

Against recommendations we decided to visit this untouched village, and apart from one other girl we met who was part of the US Peace Corps, we were the only Westerners in town.

local men in Todos Santos gather in the plaza and pass time by watching the main road
local men in Todos Santos gather in the plaza and pass time by watching the main street

The population of Todos Santos is predominantly indigenous Mayan descent. The language spoken is the Mayan language of Mam, and Spanish is a second language to most locals. Alas there was no English in Todos Santos so this was one of our first stops where we had to rely heavily on our Spanish and body language to communicate.

main street - Todos Santos, Guatemala
main street - Todos Santos, Guatemala

Todos Santos has a modest main street with a few shops, a plaza and a church. The pace of life is slow, and not too different from what it's been for the last few centuries. There are no restaurants to so speak, but a few small 'comedores' (eateries) that are run from locals houses, where you are served what they are cooking for the day, usually rice, beans and tortillas. If you want to socialise with the locals the best place to do this is in the plaza, where you can easily sit and watch the day go by.

socialising in the plaza - Todos Santos, Guatemala
socialising in the plaza - Todos Santos, Guatemala

Todos Santos is one of the few places left in Guatemala where both the men and women still wear their full indigenous clothing. The men's attire included red and white striped trousers, with black shorts over the trousers if they are married, blue button-down shirts, and straw hats with blue ribbons. Woman wear black skirts and colourful pinafore tops that include beautiful hand-weaving.

Todos Santos, Guatemala

Weaving is in fact one of the small industries in Todos Santos. During our stay hubby and I stayed with a local family for two nights, and our host mum showed me 'the ropes'. The weaving was slow and hard work. A single weaving can take weeks to complete, and working on my own piece for just a few hours gave me a much greater appreciation for the skill involved.

with my host mum learning to weave - Todos Santos, Guatemala
with my host mum learning to weave - Todos Santos, Guatemala

This November I'm blogging every day in a A to Z travel challenge, where I'll share some of the amazing but more obscure places I've travelled to in the world as I make my way through the alphabet. 

If you'd like to join me on this travel blogging challenge please do. I'd love to hear about some of your favourite travel destinations. Tweet using #AtoZtravel and I'll retweet you, or just share your posts in my comment feed. Enjoy and Happy #AtoZtravel November!
Also - I'm entered in the travel category of the 2015 UK Blog Awards. If you enjoy reading somewhere... beyond the sea then I would love you to vote for me. It's pretty easy - just click on this link. Happy travels!

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