Say It Loud
Guatemala can be a very colorful place to visit, in the literal and the figurative sense. Literally, there are loud colors everywhere from the buses, to the Mayan ladies and their weaving, to the fields of flowers, the markets, and quite often the churches and their interiors. None of the churches in Guatemala can compare to the riot of flashy shades that can be found in the town of San Andrés Xecul.
As one approaches the town, they can be forgiven for thinking that there is a big-top circus set up in the center, or some type of carnival with all the rides and such, for that is what the dome – and all those colors would remind you of. As far as Guatemala being colorful in the figurative sense, I guess you need to get here and just see for yourself.
Dripping With Color
From the Minerva bus station in Quetzaltenango, board any bus to “Cuatro Caminos” or any “Huehue” bus and ask to be dropped at the turn-off for San Andrés Xecul. A short walk up the road to the town square will bring you past farm workers in the fields, with the gleaming view of the church always there ahead of you.
On our visit, it seemed as if the church had just been painted, for the church was so bright and glossy. The façade explodes with chubby cherubs and twisting vines bearing juicy fruits, topped with some cats that are trying to go for the regal look, but sort of look like they died of fright. Did I mention the colors?
Within Guatemala, this church is known country-wide for being featured in a photo used by the chain restaurant “Pollo Campero” that graces the paper place mats used to line the plastic tray your fried chicken meal is served on. That is quite the distinction! There was even a “Lonely Planet” guide-book that used a snap of the church for its front cover. Official icon-status is due, if you ask me.
Just about any church interior in the highlands of Guatemala will showcase quite a dramatic display of statues in glass cases and other idols throughout, and this church is no exception in that regard. When we visited we had it to ourselves, except for a few older women who shuffled in here and there to worship.
As for the statues themselves, they looked quite animated in their various poses of woe. The eyes of many of the statues looked a bit like they were done up with eye-liner and mascara. For certain, these dioramas are quirky and just a bit over-the-top, which is the name of the game here in case you have forgotten what the exterior of the church looked like. Stepping back outside, one realizes how drab the rest of the town is, along with the surrounding country-side.
The Kid Brother
Just up hill from the central square is a small chapel that looks as if it aspires to be just as boisterous as the main church when it grows up. Sadly the gates were closed and we could only just peek in over the barricade. While not nearly as glitzy as its big brother, this chapel seemed to be in the middle of a small ceremony just outside.
The views of the town and valley below are stunning from this vantage point, so take it all in and watch that church glow in the distance. Not far away are the town pilas, or public laundry facilities, that are constantly kept filled with water. It did not seem to be laundry day on our visit.