Chichicastenango, also known as Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, is a town in the El Quiché department of Guatemala, known for its traditional Maya Indian culture. The Spanish conquistadors gave the town its name from the Nahuatl name used by their soldiers from Tlaxcala: Tzitzicaztenanco, or City of Nettles. Its original name was Chaviar.
Chichicastenango serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name.
Chichicatenango is a small and stucco-white town, lying on the crests of mountaintops at an altitude of 1,965 m (6,447 ft). It is located about 140 km (87 miles) northwest of Guatemala City.
On Thursdays and Sundays there is a large market where vendors sell handicrafts, food, flowers, pottery, wooden boxes, condiments, medicinal plants, candles, pom and copal (traditional incense), cal (lime for preparing tortillas), grindstones, pigs and chickens, machetes, and other tools. In the central part of the market plaza are comedores (small eateries).
Among the items sold are textiles, particularly the women's blouses. The manufacture of masks, used by dancers in traditional dances has also made this city well-known for woodcarving.
Church of Santo Tomás
Next to the market is the 400-year old church of Santo Tomás. It is built atop a Pre-Columbian
platform, and the steps originally leading to a temple of the pre-Hispanic Maya civilization
remain venerated. Shamans
still use the church for their rituals, burning incense
and candles. In special cases, they burn a chicken for the gods. Each of the 18 stairs that lead up to the church stands for one month of the Maya calendar
year. They also have an ancient carved stone known as Pascual Abaj
nearby and the Maya priests perform several rituals there. Writing on the stone records the doings of a king named Tohil
At least three songs have been written about the town.
In addition, the character Rosie from Bye Bye Birdie repeatedly mentions her relatives in Chichicastenango.
Chichicastenango is composed of the municipal seat and 81 rural communities. Nearby village communities include Paquixic
(1.0 nm), Chucam
(1.0 nm), Chujupen
(1.4 nm), Camanibal
(2.2 nm), Chontala
(2.2 nm) and Chucojom