The department of Suchitepéquez Is located in region 6 or Southwest. Its surface covers two thousand five hundred ten (2510) km². Bordered on the South by the Pacific Ocean; on the North with Quetzaltenango, Sololá and Chimaltenango; on the East with Escuintla, and on the West with Retalhuleu. It if formed by 21 Municipal Districts and the Department's capital is the city of Mazatenango, distant 168 kilometers from the city of Guatemala. It covers the classic topographical territory of the departments which end at the Pacific Ocean. The majority of the Municipal Districts have warm weather throughout the year, while a few will have a much colder climate.
Half of the territory originates at the slopes of the San Pedro and Atitlan volcanoes. All the rivers run to the Pacific Ocean. Erosion and the mountainous soils have led to an amazing fertility of the lands. In spite of the fact that there are no volcanoes in Suchitepéquez, a lot of volcanic material can be found which comes from the highlands located at the northern side of the department. Among the many rivers found in this region there are Rio Bravo, Nahualate, Alto Coloyate, Ican, Secua, Chichoy, Pajoc, Ixtapaca, Seco, Alto and Madre Vieja. Besides Spanish, the languages spoken in the department are K’iche, tz’utujil and kaqchiqkl.
When the Spanish arrived to Guatemala, the Department was divided, and depended on the k 'iché and the Tz'utujil kingdoms; and it is said that in the first battles for the conquest of Guatemala were fought here, when the Spanish, led by Pedro de Alvarado, arrived from Soconusco.Its inhabitants call it The Land of the Deer, but its name comes from the Nahuatl Xochitepek, meaning large hill or flowers. During colonial times Suchitepéquez, together with Retalhuleu were part of the Corregimiento de Suchitepéquez, used by Spain for the term “country subdivision”. In 1877 they were separated and formed the Suchitepéquez Department. However, later in 1839 it became part of the State of the hights, which proclaimed its independence from Guatemala.
During colonial times, San Pablo Jocopilas held the headquarters of the Franciscan order, which was instituted a school of training for Priests and Nuns throughout Central America and Mexico. The Carnival in Mazatenango was officially recognized on July 8, 1885. This celebration would have arisen as part of the activities to worship to the Virgin of Candelaria; However the first costume ball was not performed until 1893. The fair is known for its popular costume parade, in which the participants make use of all their ingenuity to add color and entertainment. It originally took place in the central square, but as city grew, and with it the steam of visitors and locals who come to admire it, the parade has been moved. At first it took place at the Old “Campo de Marte”, then the soccer fields, and finally at the independence colony (Colonia Independencia), the place where the fair is place to this date, ever since 1980.
The celebration lasts for eight days during which they organize dances, livestock, agricultural and craft exhibitions, sports games, religious ceremonies, and other. But the events that are most important are the Beauty Pageants, where the beauty Queens are selected, the parade of costumes and masks, and the Verbena Popular, in which youth and adults gather at the fair, to celebrate with confetti and colorful eggshells filled with fine confetti in hand, included as the most traditional form of the celebration of the Carnival at national level. The joy, the intense colors, the variety of flavors of the foods that are prepared for the occasion, the influx of visitors from the 21 municipal districts of the Department of Suchitepéquez, the sports competitions, and each of the events, makes this the most important celebration in the region.
Tourists wishing to be part of this celebration of Italian origin with the added hallmark imprinted by the Guatemalan warmth and idiosyncrasy, should check the dates of onset of lent, since the feast is moveable, according to the Catholic celebrations of Ash Wednesday which begins lent.
Places to visit in Suchitepéquez:
There are two theories about the origin of the city. One says that the name is the translation into Spanish of the surname of an Indian landowner named Francisco Chicajau, who donated two Caballerías (equivalent to 223.02 acres) of his property to the municipal district to be founded, so they named the town on his honor.
The other theory says that, as elsewhere in Guatemala, the name is derived from the Nahuatle words Chi, which means “between”, and Cacao (cocoa) that was abundant in the area. Hence, the name is interpreted as "Among the Cocoa trees".
A tour of Chicacao includes the archaeological site of San Rafael Panán, the biological corridor Chicacao, and the ecological tour of Finca Bulbuxyá of the University of San Carlos. To walk the biological corridor “Chicacao” is required to be in a good physical condition. This is a destination for nature lovers. The walk starts in Chicacao, and can take two to four hours, heading Northwest, until you reach Santo Tomás La Unión.
The travel time varies depending on factors such as time spent observing the fauna of the area, whose main attractive is the opportunity to appreciate the changes in nature that leads from the subtropical very wet forest, from the warm strip of the near coast, called in local slang “boca costa”; which slowly turns into subtropical low montane very moist forest of the Highlands. All through the trail there are caves, waterfalls, rivers and springs where bird watching is superb. The path may present some the dangers of the area, so a proper guide is required. Preferably one belonging to the local association that can be contacted at the City Hall of Chicacao.
For those visitors that are not in optimal physical condition, the eco-tour of the farm Bulbuxyá, of the University of San Carlos, presents the pleasures of the experience, since the place is surrounded by forests and natural paths, but does not require strenuous walks or physical efforts. Chicacao is also home to a private archaeological museum, in the Milan estate, located six kilometers from the municipal district city, owned by don Carlos Jeréz Cordero.
Mazatenango, the capital of Suchitepéquez, is located 160 km from Guatemala city. It is one of the largest cities of the South coast, where tourists will find a variety of restaurants, shops, hotels and nightspots for the amusement of visitors. It celebrates its traditional carnival with social and religious activities, sports and beauty pageants, which is a good reason to visit the land of the deer and share the joy of this vibrant city. This Festival is the most important event of the city, but not its only attraction.
Surrounded by the city there is an ecological reserve, the Parque Campestre Xol 'ja'. Here visitors may participate in sports such as canopy, gotcha, fishing, skateboards, bicycles and skates; or enjoy nature while eating at the restaurant. They also have an area available for camping. It is not an extreme adventure, but an area of natural recreation in the middle of the city.
Samayac comes from the word of the kakchiquel Tzaamayac from Tzaam term which means "nose" or "tip" and yak meaning "mountain cat", which can mean "Mountain cat nose" or "Peak where there are mountain cats". In pre-Columbian times it was known by the name of Tzaamayac, and it was considered a very important city, since there the Tzutujil and the Kakchiqueles fought to death. War that won the Kakchiqueles. Later, in colonial times, was called "San Francisco Samayaque" and "Our Lady of conception of Samayaqueya" until the name change to as it is known now, on 11 October 1825.
It is the traditional handcraft producer village of Suchitepéquez, here visitors can get leather objects, such as belts, hats, saddles, boxes, among others.
For adventurism lovers, Los Tarrales Private Reserve in Patulul is the place to be. Here over 30 endemic and migratory species converge. There are two migratory seasons of species of the northern hemisphere, September when they move south fleeing from the cold, and then returning in April, with the arrival of spring.
The place possesses a great wealth and diversity of birds, and other wildlife; since the reserve covers areas of cloud forest at the top of the volcano, and humid subtropical forests mixed with plantations of coffee in the lowlands. Emblematic species include Horned Turkey (Oreophasis derbianus), Tangara Cabanisi (Tangara cabanisi) and Pink-Headed Warbler (pink-headed Warbler versicolor). More than 300 species have been registered, besides the aforementioned we can find: Yellow-naped Parrot, Pacific Parakeet, Azure-rumped Tanager, Highland Guan, Rufous Sabrewing, Long-tailed Manakin, Blue-tailed Hummingbird, Resplendent Quetzal, Blue-throated Motmot, (Cabanis´ Tanager). Los Tarrales is a destination that bird watchers cannot miss.
In addition to hiking through the reservation, the place offers a tour to learn about the treatment given to the cultivation and processing of coffee, as well as a walk through the production of ornamental plants.
San Antonio Suchitepéquez
It is located 11 km from Mazatenango. It was officially founded on June 13, 1549. San Antonio Suchitepéquez owes its name to San Antonio de Padua. It was categorized as a city on January 16, 1996. San Antonio Suchitepéquez is a municipal district Department of Suchitepéquez, recognized throughout the country as one of the places where the Guatemalan culture is preserved without much foreign influences, and for being the first Spanish settlement on Guatemalan land.
It belonged to the Kingdom of Quiché in pre-Columbian times, and was a place of great importance since its beginnings; this was because it was the capital of the province of Suchitepéquez due to the major advances that it had, compared to other places. During the war between quiche and tz' Tz'utujil people, the municipal district of San Antonio Suchitepéquez was the center of many wars. Vestiges of these confrontations are found in the archaeological remains at the Río Nahualate.
In addition to the stories of the storytelling people in town, San Antonio offers to its visitors, during the months of June to November, the extreme adventure on the Nahualate River. The Nahualate River offers Rafting with a moderate difficulty (III-III +), with periods of tunnels and huge waves which guarantee intense action. This activity is not recommended for children under 12 years for its level of dangerousness.
Santo Tomás La Unión
Santo Tomas is a municipal district that was created after the colony. It appears for the first time in the Decree of August 27, 1836. Throughout history the name has changed from Santo Tomas, to Santo Tomas Perdido, and finally to Santo Tomas Union. It was originally part of the Department of Totonicapan, then to Suchitepéquez, then to Quetzaltenango and eventually returned to be part of Suchitepéquez.
The municipal district has very little crime, perhaps due to the promotion of sporting activities that have promoted by different groups of human, social and cultural development in recent years. One of these is The Maxeno Cultural Center that frequently promotes cultural activities which include concerts, photographic and artistic exhibitions, films, and other entertainment; also her you might find the "corner of identity", which is a small museum that works on the second level of the Cultural Center.
Despite all its cultural richness, the tourist attraction of greater popularity of Santo Tomas La Union is the archaeological site Chocola.
Legends of Suchitepéquez
Guatemala is a country where magic occupies a large part of its culture and tradition. Suchitepéquez is no exception to this rule. This Department is the birthplace of storytellers. Their oral tradition is strong and well rooted. As a result, in its municipal districts, men and women entertain their children with stories of supernatural beings, ghosts, and apparitions.The most common legends are:
People say that on nights of the full moon, at the public trough of Mazatenango, walks a woman adorned in white floaty dress, with the most beautiful hair, but who cares not to show her face. Often, men who walk-by feel attracted by the beautiful silhouette of the woman. Those who follow it, loose the notion of time and distance, and usually regain it at the edge of a ravine. Then the Siguanaba turns his horse face, which frightens her followers, who sometimes die in the bottom of the ravine. Fear makes them lose balance, and often they fall to their death.
Depending on who you ask, the story of Juan Noj will change. In Quetzaltenango they say that Juan Noj is the owner of the Santiaguito volcano and that he lives in a house in its interior; This represents a big problem for the Lord. Since the volcano is always erupting, his house burns constantly. This is why is he sends out plagues and diseases, so that people will die and then he will collect their souls, and bring them back to the volcano to rebuild his house. In Suchitepéquez, in contrast, people say that Juan Noj is a Knight who appears in the early hours of mornings, all dressed in black. Here Juan Noj lives in a secret cave called Mystery Cave. From here he moves to to the curve of the Coyolate River, where he dedicates his time to take care of the people who walks by.
For those who enjoy the delights of the sea, the decision is not an easy one. Legend has it that those who catch the magic shrimp and keep them will find wealth. They will be lucky in business, and with women, for the rest of their lives. Then the decision isn't easy. To eat them and enjoy a delicious dish, and risk the possibly thereby to put an end to their good fate; or save them and run the risk of them being non-magical shrimp.
It would be very rare that magic does not extrapolate with another of the most important activities in the region: “La Zafra” or harvest of sugar cane. Legend tells that in the time of harvest, in the early hours of the night, when workers leave the job, in field appear small, children like, or dwarven creatures, but they aren't. The Uines are attracted by the reeds that have been cut off but have not yet been collected. They run around picking them up from the soil and sucking on them, thus sucking all its sweetness, leaving them bitter as gall. To avoid that the Uines do this, an ocote cross covered with red cloth must be placed. This always scares them and keeps them away so they don’t ruin the whole harvest.
The Virgin of Immaculate Conception:
Suchitepéquez used to be one of the main places where cotton was grown in Guatemala. There are stories that come from those times. For instance: In San Bernardino say that when cotton is in full bloom, a tall and very beautiful woman dressed in white, which is confused with the sowing, appears. This woman starts cutting cotton but very quickly. They say that it is the Virgin of Immaculate Conception, who harvests the cotton that will produce the Baby Jesus's diapers. While in San Lorenzo, they assure that the woman who collects the cotton is Santa Ana, mother of the Virgin Mary; and then, on midnight December 7, on the Calle Real, if one pays attention, one may hear the sewing machine with which the Virgin and Santa Ana make the diapers.
Other popular characters of Suchitepéquez are Uncle Coyote, Uncle Rabbit, Aunt Cotuza, and Aunt Turtle, all folkloric characters. But the cast could not be full without the stories of La Llorona, El Sombrerón, The Carts of Death and the other characters of the Guatemalan imaginary.
The traveller can mitigate the characteristic heat of the place on the beaches of Tahuesco, El Jardin, Chicago, new Venice, Tulate, and Chuirririn. They usually have calm waters and are easily accessible. It also has several resorts throughout its territory, in which in addition to cooling tourists can enjoy the cuisine of the region.
Suchitepéquez produces the best chocolate in the region, which can be purchased at the local market.
In Suchitepéquez, as in the rest of the country, we can find archaeological sites, although these are not widely known. For example: In Cuyotenango, Cuyotenango and Trapiche Grande; in Chicacao, San Rafael Panam; in Patalul, San Jose Buena Vista; in San Antonio Suchitepéquez, Palo Gordo; and in San Bernardino, the San Bernardino archaeological site. Furthermore there are many beaches along the Pacific Coast. And perhaps visitors will have the opportunity to meet one of the story tellers who keep old legends alive.
Chocola is an archaeological site of great importance. It is cataloged as Archaeological Center because of its antiquity. Its Center is located in the Farm and Sugar Mill of the same name. However, nearby sites as Santo Tomás La Unión, San Francisco Zapotitlán, San Antonio Suchitepéquez, La Ceiba, and Chuajij, in Sololá, are believed to be part of the complex, and were subordinated to Chocola. The Farm and Sugar mill Chocola started business on December 20, 1875. Today it is under ownership of the company “Empresa Campesina Asociativa Chocolá”, created by Decree Law # 67-84 of 1985.
It was discovered by Karl Sapper towards the end of the 19th century. Later, in 1929, it was superficially investigated by Robert Burkitt and others like Graham and Shook. It was not until 2003 that deeper research started by PACH project. This current research has given way to the knowledge that Chocola is a great Lost City of the Mayan culture.
The site dates to the late Preclassic (400 BC to 200 ad) until the late Post classic occupation (1500 DC). It has over 100 structures, some of them as high as 25 m. Among them there are large palaces, such is the case of the 5 structure of 20 mt. long and 5 mt. height; a ball field, and pottery workshops. It has also documented the use of stone channels, used to transport water, which run on a North-South axis and cover an area of at least 1.5 km. This construction shows that this civilization had sophisticated knowledge of hydraulics. So far over 3,000 objects have been found. These objects include complete pots, altars, sculpted monuments, and very delicate manufacturing ceramic figurines.
Archaeologists think there was a very early occupation in this region of Mesoamerica, and that because it´s degree of development, chocolá influenced other civilizations as advanced as the Maya cultures. This belief is derived from research carried out in recent decades; which cover Kaminal Juyú, The nuclear area of Cotzumalguapa and Tak'alik Abaj on the South coast. Findings such as the Monument Number One show a strong relationship between these regions, since it has an incredible similarity to the Estela 10 of Kaminal Juyú. This leads to the conclusion that there should be an important connection between the cities. The strategic position of the Center confirms that Chocola was the link between the three cities.
Suchitepéquez is among the producers of the best quality of Cocoa in the country. Mayan culture used the cocoa nuts as currency. This knowledge has led to the conjecture that an early development of such magnitude and complexity is due to the intensive cultivation of cocoa for its commercialization. In the modern village of Chocolá is a small museum open to the public.
December 8, Virgin of the Immaculate Conception.
January 15, Black Christ of Esquipulas.
1) 9 February to 16, National and International celebration of Carnival
2) 21 of August 28, traditional fair of the Patron Saint Bartholomew
January 25, Saint Mary Madeleine .
Pueblo Nuevo Suchitepéquez:
January 15s, Black Christ of Esquipulas
Santo Domingo Suchitepéquez:
February 2, Virgin of Candelaria.
December 8; Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
San Antonio Suchitepéquez:
June 13, Saint Anthony of Padua.
San Antonio Suchitepéquez:
May 20; Saint Bernard of Sienne.
San Francisco Zapotitlan:
25 December; Day of the Nativity.
24 March, Saint Gabriel Archangel.
San Jose Idol:
March 19, Saint Joseph.
José San Jose La Máquina:
March 19, Saint Joseph.
San Juan Bautista:
June 24; Saint John the Baptiste.
February 2; Virgin of the Candelaria.
San Miguel Panán:
29 September, Saint Michael Archangel.
San Pablo Jocopilas:
1) from 23 to 25 of January, in honor of St. Paul Apostle
2) June 29, in honor to Saint Peter Apostle.
August 4, Santo Domingo .
Santo Domingo Suchitepéquez:
December 4, Saint Bárbara.
Santo Tomas La Unión:
December 21; Saint Thomas.
November 25, St. Catherine of Alexandria.
- Pueblo Nuevo
- Río Bravo
- San Antonio Suchitepéquez
- San Bernardino
- San Francisco Zapotitlán
- San Gabriel
- San José El Ídolo
- San José la Máquina
- San Juan Bautista
- San Lorenzo
- San Miguel Panán
- San Pablo Jocopilas
- Santa Bárbara
- Santo Domingo Suchitepéquez
- Santo Tomás La Unión
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