Saturday, February 9, 2019

San Lucas Toliman, revisited

Market days are Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. On these days, several streets are closed to traffic and thronging with vendors, their produce, and customers. The vibrant colours of Kaqchikel Mayan women in their *trajes* and the fruit and vegetables on offer, comined with the hubbub of banter create a boisterous and lively atmosphere. A large proportion of this food is locally-grown on small plots of land and brought fresh to market. We have never experienced anywhere else the depth of intense flavour of the beets and carrots, mangoes and melons of the markets around Lake Atitlan.

On non-market days, these same streets look desolate and unkempt. Any number of *tiendas* sell mostly packaged junk food in a sea of plastic. Any number of *farmacias* sell pharmaceutical drugs, largely to medicate and treat against this junk diet. Sugary carbonated drinks and salty snacks made using industrial-strength glyphosated GMO corn and soy doused in unhealthy trans-fats help to fuel malnutrition, obesity, and diabetes rates.

The view from Hotel Toliman, towards San Antonio Palopo

Apart from a handful of hotels, including the lovely Hotel Toliman, this town of 17,000 inhabitants, 90 - 95% of them Mayan, barely caters to tourists and travellers at all. One cafe, Cafe Jade, offers free wifi and freshly-ground coffees. The restaurants and fast-food eateries in town service mainly locals. Hotel Toliman sits on a knoll overlooking a swimming pool, beautiful gardens, the bay and the open waters of Lake Atitlan beyond. The far view takes in San Antonio Palopo on the shore and Agua Escondida further along, up on the crater rim. The accommodations look delightful and the cuisine is sumptuous, making full use of fresh ingredients from their one-acre organic garden, fresh fish, and 100% grass-fed beef. What could eclipse this?