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Esquipulas, from dark till dawn

In many towns they still preserve the custom of wandering around the park in a subtle manner, going in the contrary sense to that of the opposite sex, looking for friends or a couple. In the east border of Guatemala this has its own way.

'We just go out and wander around' tells Ivonne, a teenager who, as many young women from Esquipulas on Saturday nights, dresses her best gowns and on board of her scooter, travels aimlessly through the adjoining streets of the Basilica of the Black Christ.

Maybe because there is neither discotheque, nor many restaurants to offer an attractive environment for the young ones, the bright sky and fresh air is the chosen scenery for night life during weekends.

Accompanied by the sound of motorcycles, visitors can buy crucifixes, medals, paintings and every type of religious object, until late hours of the night, since the shops over the Third Avenue (in front of the temple) stay open until 11 o'clock at night.

At this hour you can still find a place where you can eat some Mexican style tacos or visit a restaurant and order from the menu. Pharmacies and grocery stores keep their doors open until late at night. Those who do not have a vehicle can take a three wheel car or strolling car (that emulates a fair train), which will take you to any point of the zone for Q3.00.

Walking through the Third Avenue, between 9th and 13th streets, the show offered by the partially illuminated Basilica results irresistible for the eye of photographers, who invest the necessary time and creativity in order to put the everlasting memories into film.

The heat from the sun and candles

The movement in certain shops starts a little bit earlier, but thewhole city seems to awake around six thirty in the morning, when thebells proclaim the first mass.  During the services that take place at6:30 and 17:00 hours, devotees make long lines in order to bless theirreligious articles; job that is carried out by several priests in oneof the aisles of the temple.

The access is not free for anyone, but with a little patience andcommunication with the church authorities, some of the most fortunateones are lucky enough to climb up to the temple belfries and observefrom up there the city that beats between majestic mountains.



Upstairs, entering through small chambers that lead towards themezzanine, you can observe the fervent praying accompanied by the cloudof smoke that comes up from the candles consuming in the floor of thethree naves of the temple, which fills the walls with soot; walls ofthe baroque construction which dates from 1759.

Submerged in this atmosphere of heat, smoke and devotion, the pilgrimsalso invest several hours of their time in the lengthy line that willlet them arrive to the crystal cabin that protects the image of theBlack Christ, on which they whisper petitions and gratitude. In thepresence of this icon of the catholic faith, locals and foreignersaccomplish the purpose of their trip to this warm town in Chiquimula.