Todos Santos is a village in the highlands of western Guatemala, about a two-hour bus ride from the state capital Huehuetenango. The setting is quite spectacular and so are the people, who are largely indigenous, of Maya descent, and speak the Mayan language of Mam. This is one of the few villages in the country where even the men wear traditional dress—red-and-white striped trousers and multi-coloured shirts with embroidered collars. The town is also famous for its yearly celebrations centered around All Saints’ Day on November 1.
I worked in Todos Santos for several months with a Canadian non-governmental organization and shared office space with Rigoberto Pablo Cruz, better known as Rigo, who at the time was starting a tour guiding business. Rigo says he wanted to do get into tourism because he likes to meet different people from around the world. He also loves to walk! I know that he is very proud of his culture and enjoys telling visitors about it.
Rigo speaks Mam, Spanish and English. He is a certified tour guide and his company offers personalized excursions all around Todos Santos. He spent a year working for Adrenalina Tours in Quetzaltenango (Xela), the second largest city in the country, and another year working independently there before returning to Todos Santos, the village where he was born. He has been working in the tourism industry for seven years now.
Rigo says that tourists visiting Guatemala often only go to places such as Flores, Antigua, Panajachel, Coban, and Xela. However, there are great things to do and see in Todos Santos and the surrounding area and he would like to show them to visitors.
May I introduce Tom Harrisson, the barefoot anthropologist of Borneo
May I introduce Jesús Lopez, my driver in Mexico
May I introduce Jim, a Tibetan who runs a hotel filled with westerners in Dali, China
May I introduce an Aussie who runs a B&B in Cambodia
Todos Santos is a rather remote village high in the Cuchumatanes Mountains. The treks Rigo offers can last a couple of hours or several days. A popular one is a five-hour trek from Todos Santos to the village of
San Juan Atitán that goes through a cloud forest and across a beautiful valley. There is a four-day trek to Nebaj, through villages where little has changed for hundreds of years. Photos of some of Rigo’s treks are on his company’s facebook site.
Rigo also gives presentations on the culture and local traditions of the Maya-Mam people, the impact the 36-year civil war has had on them, about their traditional dress and the outstanding textiles of the area. He can also make arrangements for classes in weaving, Spanish and Mam.
This part of Guatemala was particularly traumatized during the civil war and locals tend to be very wary of outsiders so it is recommended that you hire a guide if you are going to trek there. Although I never took a tour with Rigo, I worked beside him every day for 4 months and thought he was a really nice guy. I also walked to isolated villages as part of my job and always had to be accompanied by a local.
Jessica’s interview with Rigo was conducted in Spanish and edited.
By Jessica Sunter
Photo credits Rigoberto Pablo Cruz
© Riding the buses 2012