San Juan La Laguna

Prachi trying her hand at spinning cotton... the women's textile cooperative

Prachi trying her hand at spinning cotton… …at the women’s textile cooperative

Dates visited: March 30, 2015

San Juan La Laguna, an unspoiled and unsophisticated Mayan village, perches happily on the shores of Lago de Atitlán (Lake Atitlán). We got here by a boat across the lake from Panajachel. This was a whirlwind trip, across the lake, of three Mayan villages (other two being San Pedro La Laguna and Santiago Atitlán) so Prachi was nervous about her seasickness acting up. I made sure that she was all prepared so she wore her “seasick wrist bands” and kept sucking on ginger candy. We reached San Juan La Laguna without any incident of seasickness so Prachi was glad to survive the first leg. 1 down, 2 to go. Our plan was to return to Panajachel by early afternoon as xocomil (means “the wind that carried away sin” in Kaqchickel language) that blows in at that time makes the waters very rough.

The boat ride across the lake was windy and cold, but the sight of volcanoes (Tolimán, Atitlán and San Pedro) and mountains surrounding the lake was fabulous. The greenery of the mountains complemented the blue-gray color of the lake, and the tiny Mayan villages that dotted the shores of Lake Atitlán gave a perspective on how much of an eye sore human construction can be! But we were here to visit a Mayan village and I just focused on appreciating the beauty and where it would lead us.

San Juan La Laguna isn’t very popular with tourists so it’s not crowded. It’s very tiny and you can walk across the entire village in less than thirty minutes! We strolled through at a relaxed pace as the locals went about their day doing their daily chores. The buildings were colorful and so were the people… …dressed in their traditional Mayan clothes. Majority of the inhabitants here are Tz’utujil—Native American people and one of the 21 Maya ethnic groups that live in Guatemala.

We visited a women’s textile cooperative, Asociación de Mujeres en Colores Botánico (Association of Women in Botanical Colors) where a very charming girl gave us a live demonstration of how to spin cotton, and the process of dyeing cotton to make it ready for spinning various garments. What’s special about this place is that, it’s managed and run entirely by women, and they use fruits, vegetables, leaves and even insects to make the dyes; hence the name “botanical colors”.

Overall, we had a calm and peaceful time in this cute little village, away from the tourists, before we made our way to the next Mayan village—San Pedro La Laguna—by boat much to Prachi’s chagrin!



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