I don’t know if this is a regular local custom, but it’s certainly one that caught our eye! We were walking along Calle Santander quite early one morning when we spotted a young man ahead of us leading a couple of goats. Nothing too unusual there – but then he was hailed by a couple of salesmen from a nearby shop, upon which he stopped, took a paper cup and proceeded to milk one of the goats there in the street. The cup was passed to one of the men, money changed hands, and the transaction then repeated for the second man before the goat-herd went on his way.
Xocomil (sho-ko-MIL) is loosely translated as the "wind that carries away sin." Well sin must weigh quite a bit because this afternoon wind can get pretty strong. So strong that it can make traveling on Lake Atitlan rather treacherous. It's best to schedule your lake activities (e.g., kayaking, traveling by ferry) so that they wrap up by mid-afternoon. Otherwise be prepared with some dramamine if you're inclined to get seasick.
In the mornings along Calle Santander and in other places throughout Guatemala, you will see vendors set up a table with a manually-operated fruit juicer. Naranjada is produced in a tall glass if you drink it right there or you can get it to go in which case they will put the juice in a plastic bag with a straw sticking out the top and the bag opening wrapped around the straw. A glass/bag of fresh squeezed orange juice will set you back 5 quetzales (USD 0.60).
While shopping around on Calle Santander young girls and boys will inevitably come up to you asking to sell things, etc. This one girl in particular was very nice and helpful for a person looking for a few adventures. She showed me around the downtown and then even helped me find a boat to rent to go visit other villages on the otehr side of the lake. To repay her for her kindness I took her and her cousin on the boat trip with me and the nout to a lunch. The girl brought me back to her mothers house where her mother showed me how her made the dresses for her children (all 7 of them!). It was a wonderful experience. When I return to Guatemala this fall I hope on meeting her again.
Panajachel would have little to offer tourists if not for the lake. That's not to say that it would not be an interesting place to shop or to see local Mayan culture on colorful display, but without the lake, you wouldn't be here. The view of three volcanoes over placid azure waters is why so many people come. It's what brought the Cakchiquel and Tzutuhil people to the region thousands of years ago and it's what brought the Spanish here during their period of conquest over Guatemala. Locals still use the lake for subsistence, fishing and using it as the most important mode of transportation and even more importantly as the big draw for tourists who visit and support the local economy.
You'll notice a lot of kids in Panajachel who are working. On Calle Santander, it's not uncommon to see them peddling merchandise alongside their parents and I even saw some doing harder work like laying down concrete or hauling heavy supplies like this kid in the picture. On the other hand, there is a school just off of Calle Santander where I saw a lot of kids playing in the schoolyard, so the news isn't all bad.
You are most likely to be innondated with people, especially young indigenous children, trying to sell you EVERYTHING and no is not an acceptable answer. I often bought things (which I now love) simply because someone wouldnt leave me alone, but I managed to pay a very fair price anyway. Be ware that if you make a "pity" purchase, you may end up having every other child descend upon you to try and sell you something as well. IT is particularly present in Santiago Atitlan.