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The Artisan Market: A Place for Chatting, Bargaining and Shopping

When you walk through the aisles of the Artisan Market, you’ll find yourself welcomed by dozens of small stalls that offer unique products that embody the culture and traditions of the Maya people that crafted them. You’ll find different types of items that range from traditional wooden handcrafts to modern products made of Maya textiles.

The Artisan Market is located close to the Aurora International Airport (less than 3 km from zone 10) and is known for harboring artisans from all over the country. The market is catalogued as an ideal destination for buying textiles, pottery, wooden artifacts, carpentry, candles, silver and jewelry.

At the market, you often hear people chatting, closing deals, selling their products and shopping for everyday articles. Everyone participates: indigenous people showcasing their finest creations, the ladinos bargaining for the best deals possible, and the tourists with their distinguishing cameras.

The products are usually showcased on stalls grouped by topics. The most impressive of these products are the textiles, which encompass a long-standing tradition for Guatemalans. Although the first Maya textiles date back to pre-Columbian era, today the textiles are of particular importance for Guatemalan culture. Textiles are not just mere pieces of clothing; they vary according to the region and ethnic group, and their complex designs portray the Maya history and cosmology. Although the colors, the designs and the quality of the weaving vary from region to region, they all share one common thread: each and every one of them possesses a unique beauty.

Just like the rest of artisan markets across the country, the best-selling and most appealing products are the colorful Maya textile items, which include traditional Maya garments, such as huipiles (blouses), cortes (skirts), fajas (belts or sashes used to holding up the corte), cintas (bands of woven material worn as hair wrap or adornment), and more modern items such as hammocks, backpack, and linen.

The picturesque setting of this market is even more embellished by other items, such as small wooden furniture and famous “bird’s-eye-view” paintings that depict beautiful crop fields and the everyday life of local towns.

Many of the crafts you find at the market contain syncretic elements where Maya and Christian religion merge to create a beautiful rendition of traditional spirituality. For instance, you are bound to find many wooden and clay figurines of Maximón and Christ in more than one market stall, and most of the indoor stores sell the same censers and candles you’d find at any Catholic church in the city.

Other distinctive products you are guaranteed to find at the market are various types of masks, such as animal masks of endemic species (e.g. jaguars, monkeys, birds), and masks used during the traditional conquest dances. Additionally, you’d find baskets made of palm and straw and basic ceramic product (unvarnished and with no design). If you’re looking for silver or jade jewelry, the Artisan Market is the perfect place for you.

Craftsmanship in Guatemala, especially that related to textile, entails a laborious and detail-oriented process that each community has mastered with unique ancestral techniques over hundreds of years. You must consider the arduous work behind each item if you wish to bargain over the price of a craft, because the last thing you want to do is give the impression that you are underestimating artisan work. However, do keep in mind that the sellers are always willing to lower their prices 🙂

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