Situated a few miles from the capital, Chimaltenango is a Department full of tradition. The community of painters, Comalapa, is an example of the artistic spirit of its residents and San Andrés Itzapa, with its temple dedicated to San Simón, is evidence of its mysterious and mystic character.
Chimaltenango was the cradle, in the Mayan city of Iximché, of the first capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala, which eventually was moved to the site now occupied by Ciudad Vieja, in the neighboring Department of Sacatepéquez.
Another important site is Mixco Viejo, one of the most important fortifications in the history of the Mayan culture and one of the sites that are part of the Ruta Maya.
A region of passage
By: Isabel Rodas
The history of Chimaltenango, or B'oko', is related to the center of kaqchikel power and later with the growth of the Spanish City. The original population had a peripheral relationship to the Iximché. After the Conquest the Spanish Crown bequeathed the communal lands to obtain the payment of tributes and thus came forth places such as Comalapa, San Andrés Itzapa, Parramos, Patzicía, Patzún, Acatenango, San Antonio Nejapa, Tecpán, Santa Apolonia, San Martín Jilotepeque, Balanyá and Poaquil. The citizenry was converted in a mechanism indispensable to the collection of taxes and the organization of the Spanish military command. At the end of the 16th century, Spanish families were established in livestock ranches in the surroundings of those settlements. Ruralization and impoverishment were incorporated into the life of the indigenous communities. Only Zaragoza, in 1767, was established as a Spanish villa. With Independence, the Republican regime modified the territorial limits to satisfy the whims of the presidents of the 19th century. The ladinos acquired authority to govern the kaqchikeles and this created differences between the indigenous and ladina populations. Parallel authorities (two simultaneous mayoralties) and differing cofradías and hermandades were among them. Until 1940, the families of the ladina elite, which had control of the municipalities and were owners of the best lands, abandoned the municipal centers to take root in the capital and during the decade of the 1970's the ladinos were selling their lands to the kaqchikel population. The earthquake of 1976 began the reoccupation of the mayoralties by the kaqchikel population.
The center of the volcanic chain
By: Luis Villar Anleu
Like in many other parts of the extensive volcanic chain, this section presents a powerful front to oppose the rain-choked winds from the south. On the border extreme is the Río Grande or Motagua where we find altitudes close to 600 meters.
This slope receives waves of warm and dry winds, governed by the arid system of the Río Motagua Valley. Between both slopes is a fresh region of watersheds composed of expansive plateaus that are characteristic of the fundamental topography broken up by, CA-1, the principal highway of the Department.
In Chimaltenango the three basic natural destinations are Los Aposentos, San Rafael Pixcayá and Acatenango Volcano.
There are eight predominant ecosystems: Cacti, brambles, pines, mixed forests, evergreen, aliso forests, sub-alpine meadows and rain forests. The first two of these constitute a unified ecology that is warm, dry and arid. It is demonstrated as a semi-desert between the mountain chains and along the length of the Río Motagua.
By: Francisco Rodríguez Rouanet and Aracely Esquivel
Cotton fabrics are created in all parts of the Department. In San José Poaquil they create fabrics of wool, such as güipiles, tablecloths, skirts and other distinctive styles for general and tourist consumption.
The traditional pre-Hispanic ceramics of Santa Apolonia, San José Poaquil, Santa Cruz Balanyá and Chimaltenango are famous. They also produce glazed ceramics in these locations.
Musical instruments crafted of wood (guitars) are constructed in El Tejar, Comalapa, Tecpán Guatemala and San Martín Jilotepeque. Furniture is crafted in all of the municipalities along the Panamericana Highway.
Candle making is spread throughout the Department. Products of the tanneries and leather goods are produced in municipalities such as Chimaltenango, San Andrés Itzapa, Patzicía, Comalapa, San Martín Jilotepeque and Tecpán Guatemala.
Among the principal artisanry of Chimaltenango one finds the fabrics of Santa Apolonia, San José Poaquil, San Martín Jilotepeque, Tecpán Guatemala, Comalapa, Santa Cruz Balanyá, Chimaltenango, Patzún, Patzicía, Zaragoza, El Tejar, Acatenango, San Andrés Itzapa, Parramos and Yepocapa, the candle works of San José Poaquil, San Martín Jilotepeque, Patzún, Patzicía, Santa Cruz Balanyá, Chimaltenango, El Tejar, Acatenango, Parramos and Yepocapa and, the rope of San José Poaquil, San Martín Jilotepeque, Santa Cruz Balanyá, Patzicía, Zaragoza, Acatenango and Parramos.
Metal products come from San Martín Jilotepeque, Comalapa, Tecpán Guatemala, Patzún, Patzicía, Pochuta, Parramos and Yepocapa. They also produce objects of gold in diverse styles of bracelets, chains, rings and charms. The leatherwork in San Martín Jilotepeque, Comalapa, Tecpán Guatemala, Chimaltenango, Patzicía and San Andrés Itzapa can be burnished, inscribed, cut or encrusted.
By: Carlos René García Escobar
Cofradías and Hermandades
The ethnic kaqchikel have occupied this territory since the 15th century and to the present day, in all of the Department and adjoining regions such as Sololá and Sacatepéquez, the culture and language dominate the social and cultural environments.
Historically it has been an ethnic region closely linked to the Spanish colonization and its proximity to the capital cities of today have allowed a type of acculturation of the ethnic ladina and their religious influences.
The dance of the Venado is practiced in the municipalities of Patzún, Santa Cruz Balanyá and San Andrés Itzapa, Toritos in Chimaltenango and Comalapa, Moros y Cristianos in Chimaltenango and its variation, El Rey Moro, in Tecpán. In Comalapa, Tecpán and Patzicía La Conquista is danced. The Convites are very popular in the Department, found as different names such as Los Enmascarados, Los Feos, Los Fieros, and Disfraces in the municipalities of Chimaltenango, San Martín Jilotepeque, Comalapa, Tecpán Guatemala, Yepocapa and El Tejar. The dance of the Gigantes is present in Chimaltenango, San Andrés Itzapa and Comalapa.