In the heart of the Western Highlands of Guatemala lies a small town that transforms into a kaleidoscope of colors and traditions every Thursday and Sunday. Chichicastenango, affectionately known as Chichi, hosts the world's largest open-air handicrafts market, attracting thousands of locals and a few tourists as well. From vibrant textiles to traditional clothing, wooden instruments to intricately carved masks, the Mercado de Chichicastenango is a vibrant tapestry of Guatemala's rich cultural heritage.
We visit this lively market on each trip we make to Guatemala. In September, we spent a long but rewarding day, sourcing vintage huipiles and cortes that tell stories of Mayan traditions. However, as we made our way back to the hotel, laden with our market finds, our eyes were drawn to a stall to the left. There, a collection of pottery—vases, bowls, and coasters—captivated us with its rustic black and white design. We had never seen this type of pottery before, and it beckoned us to pause and discover its origins.
The young men at the stall were beginning to pack up, signaling the end of a bustling market day. Undeterred, we approached them with curiosity, eager to learn more about the beautiful ceramics that had caught our eye. To our delight, they disappeared into a neighboring building and emerged with an older man, Tomas—the potter and patriarch of their family.
Tomas shared with us the magic behind his craft, revealing that he used ash to create the intricate designs that adorned the pottery. While the specific steps may have slipped from our memory, the beauty of the pieces remained etched in our minds. Mesmerized by the artistry before us, we decided to bring a piece of it into our lives, purchasing as many coasters as Tomas had available on the spot.
We went a step further and secured Tomas's contact information, envisioning future collaborations and additions to our collection. However, Tomas has not yet responded, so the coaster that we have may be the only ones we have until our next trip. Small batch indeed!
Though we were weary and ready to retreat to our hotel sanctuary, this unexpected encounter reminded us of the importance of being open to new experiences. In the midst of our tiredness, we found a spark of inspiration and a connection to a craft that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks of our awareness.
We hope that this story serves as a reminder that beauty often reveals itself when we least expect it. This story of happenstance, of paying attention to our surroundings, and always seeking the beauty in the ordinary, adds a unique chapter to our Unwrapping the Stories: 12 Days of Christmas series. May it inspire you to remain open to the unexpected, for you never know where beauty might unveil itself in the tapestry of your life