Esquipula, Guatemala... "The Centre of Central America"
Nov 28, 2004
|My plan was to catch a ride back into Guatemala with my housemates as far as Chiquimula, and spend the night there, before catching a bus northwards to Rio Dulce the next day. Although was dropped off in front of a petrol station at a junction, luckily a taxi appeared shortly after too take me to my hotel, The Hotel Herández, described as "the best of the bunch" in the Lonely Planet also with a swimming pool. That was appealing, but when I found the swimming pool, decided I wouldn't have swam in it anyway...
So here I was... Alone in Guatemala.
Pretty strange, considering was always surrounded by people and friends in Antigua.
So much going on in Antigua! and here I was, not knowing what to do next. All by myself...
Looked in my Lonely Planet and found that it would still be possible to catch a mini bus to the nearby town of Esquipulas... So off I went....! Trotted off to the market (navigated myself with my map, didn't get lost!!), and very quickly found someone hawking for passengers for "Key-pula" (and still loving the way the chicken bus conductors shout -ok, so it was a minibus!)!
The journey itself was nice; up and down mountain paths, but it did take twice as long as the 45 mins ride as advertised. That meant, I only had 45 minutes to look into the Basilica, the attraction of the town, before boarding the last bus back to Chiquimula. Luckily the bus dropped me off right outside the Basilica, so no wasting time in getting lost.
I have to confess, this was my first visit to a church since arriving in Central America, and I was lucky enough to arrive on a Sunday evening, when mass was being performed. Apparently Esquipulas had always been a pilgrimage town, even before the Spanish conquest, but since an Archbishop of Guatemala was cured of an chronic ailment after a pilmage there, it became the main livihood of the town.
Although I didn't think the basilica was much different to other European churches, it was used pretty much like a basilica - the primitive form of the Christain church, evolved from the Roman basilica - a place of market and discussion. There were pews inside, but most of the congregations were happy simply to sit on the floor, around numerous lighted candles. This strong sense of faith, devotion and community really took away the usual stuffiness of a church, to me. A really nice experience.
Before leaving, managed to find the entry to visit the black carving of Jesus, known universally as the 'Black Christ'. Thought it might have been rude to take pictures of it, but it would have been wonderful to share with you the pilgrims who laid their head and body on the rail, their total devotion on display to the world. Luckily for me, there were some children there too, who showed me the correct way of leaving... by walking backwards.