San Antonio Palopo

San Antonio Palopó is a quaint farming village around Lake Atitlán and near Santa Catarina Palopó and Panajachel. It is slightly larger than Santa Catarina Palopó with a population close to 3,000, but is much smaller than Panajachel. The only road in this village is the one that connects it with Santa Catarina Palopó and Panajachel; this road was only constructed as recently as 1980. Prior to the road’s completion, all travel around the village was entirely by boat or foot.

Most of the people in San Antonio Palopó are Cakchiquel in origin and still live according to the indigenous Maya way of life. Infants, for example, are not permitted to see sunlight during their first year of life in order to ward off evil spirits. And the men still stroll the streets in traditional costumes – red leather sashes holding their rodillera, which are calf-length, woolen-blanket wraparound pants. The women, on the other hand, wear their backstrap-loomed, red-striped huipiles along with their signature red head ribbons and blue skirts. This distinctive fashion set of its villagers is what San Antonio Palopó is most known for; the ancient Maya in Lake Atitlán used to wear similar clothes, except in cotton material rather than the wool worn by them today.

Life in San Antonio Palopó revolves around subsistence farming; its people managing small plots of terraced fields that ascend from the lake up. These lands yield staple crops like onions and anise. Some of the other villagers, on the other hand, earn their keep by weaving textiles in cooperatives that are then exported to the U.S. and Europe.

San Antonio Palopó’s most prominent attraction is the beautiful adobe church, Iglesia de San Antonio Palopó. This church is located in the town’s center, marked by a stone plaza, and is the meeting place of the villagers. Another interesting site is the women’s textile cooperative located near the church. This cooperative is where the women masterfully weave various fabrics and other fashion items like belts, shawls, and placemats that are later sold and exported.