Lake Atitlan is in the highlands with a predominantly idigenous population. There are many groups and many Mayan dialects. On the east side of the lake (Panajachel and San Antonio Palopó) you primarily find Kaqchiqel speakers and on the west side, Tz’utujil speakers. Other dialects such as K’iche’ are spoken in surrounding areas. If you have interest in the languages, Wikipedia does a good job covering them.
Many of communities have their own traditional dress. San Antonio Palopó is one area where the tradition is very strong. I would estimate that 90% of the women are dressed traditionally. While a much lower percentage, traditional dress seems important in Santa Catarina Palopó which is on the road between San Antonio and Panajachel.
The photo on the right was taken in front of the Catholic Church in San Antonio. If you walked to the market nearby, virtually all of the people inside would be local women, all in traditional dress.
The photo on the left was taken in Las Chinitas, an Asian restaurant on Calle Santander in Panajachel. The two kids came by (I know them) to try to sell us some cards. Rocio had decided stealing my sushi was tastier than eating her food so she offered them what she had. They accepted.
The girl is in traditional dress of Santa Catarina. As is typical for at least the young, boys tend to wear “regular” clothes.
Who Does the Work?
There are no child labor laws here (or, at least if there are no one is concerned). You regularly see young kids working. But, it is not like they go out and get a job. They just tend to be part of the family workforce.
The boys are most likely to work with dad and many times it involves the use of a machete. In rural areas the girls cook, take care of younger siblings, pick coffee and such. In towns the girls are likely to be working in a business or as a street vendor.
In the photo on the right two little girls are running a “booth” (word used loosely) in the public market in Panajachel. Mom is likely nearby — possibly selling vegetables.
Those Macho Guys
While not unique to Guatemala, there is the image of macho guys or, as a politically correct Californian would say, “Male Sexist Pigs”. For many women, being whistled at by a man you don’t know is somewhere between irritating and freightening.
While I don’t intend to justify this action, I feel does have a positive side. In a PC community, that guy you don’t know won’t stare at your body (when you can see him) but he is probably thinking the same thing as that Latin American macho.
In addition, if you are light skinned and/or blond you stand out. Just being different is likely to attract attention. For example, I have a white beard. I get called Santa Claus all the time, particularly by kids. After hearing it 100 times in one day I am sick of it but there really is no bad intention on their part.
So, it’s the way it is. In my good Californian-speak, chill out. It’s just different here.