I love going to Guatemalan markets, they are always very chaotic affairs with little old ladies body slamming us out of their way, fresh food cooking, and anything imaginable laid out for sale on tarps in a main street that just the night before was filled with traffic. I had been looking forward to seeing the San Francisco el Alto market since the first week of our trip and made sure to schedule only four days of classes in Xela to ensure that we wouldn’t miss a thing on Friday.
After two months in Guatemala we have become very adept at hopping onto chicken buses and cramming into collectivo micro buses so it didn’t seem to take very long before we were dropped of in San Francisco. The town itself is up on a high hill with a pretty view down into the valley where Xela is and on Friday it was bustling with people. We wandered around the market for a long time looking at mountains of fresh produce, admiring cloth, buying honey comb to chew on , and just taking everything in. After a while we started wondering where the animals were being sold. The animal markets are always some of the most interesting to see and we had heard that the one in San Francisco was not to be missed. We noticed a man leading a cow through the street and guessed that we wanted to be where he just came from. So we walked to the top of the hill and were immediately met with all kinds of animal chaos. Cows, goats, sheep, pigs, geese, chickens, kittens, and puppies were all being sold and bought and kicking up a dust storm while doing so. Lots of animals had leashes tied around their legs and some of them were kept in baskets with a net tossed over it. There were whole families of piglets that would squeal like crazy when one was bought and drug unwillingly away by the new owner.
Andy kept on loitering around the puppies and playing with them as if he was actually an interested buyer. Some of the puppies were being sold for 500Q and had papers and photo albums to show the buyers who their parents were. The photos looked suspiciously like magazine clippings to us. There were also cheaper products available for those on a budget. We looked over to see one lady pull a mutt puppy out of a potato sack by the leg and when the little boy said ‘No’ she pulled out another to show him. He asked how much for one and the answer of 5Q must have been too much because those two sleepy pups got thrown back into the sack pretty quickly.
The market was amazing and everything I had hoped it would be, but eventually the constant crush of people and ducking under tarps made us feel kind of claustrophobic and we headed home.