Todos Santos & Quetzaltenango
Living Culture & Traditions in the Highlands
Spectacular landscapes, ranging from sparse highland plateaus to steep mountain passes, mark the route to Todos Santos. Nestled high in the the Cuchumatán Mountain Range, this Mam village provides a perfect example of traditional Guatemalan life in the highlands. Famous for its brightly colored weavings and its ‘witchdoctors' (shamans), Todos Santos is a mystical place unlike any other in the world.
Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala, is situated in a large valley surrounded by mountains, volcanoes, and indigenous villages. It maintains the traditions of its Maya cultural heritage as well as its colonial past and dynamic modern life. In Pre-Columbian times Quetzaltenango was a city of the Mam Maya people called Xelajú, the name derived from "Xe laju' noj" meaning "under ten mountains".
The city was said to already be over 300 years old when the Spanish first arrived. invader Pedro de Alvarado defeated and killed Maya ruler Tecún Umán here. When Alvarado invaded the city for Spain in the 1520s, he called it by the Nahuatl name used by his Central Mexican Indian allies, "Quetzaltenango", generally considered to mean "the place of the quetzal bird" (although see note on etymology below). Quetzaltenango became the city's official name in colonial times. However, many people (especially, but not only, the indigenous population) continue to call the city "Xelajú" (pronounced shay-lah-WHO) or more commonly Xela for short, and some proudly, but unofficially, consider it the "capital of the Mayas".