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A rainbow of climbing vines in bloom clusters along the open roofing around the central courtyard of La Fuente… patrons can sit down at colorful tables on the paving stones or at wrought-iron white tables sheltered by white umbrellas. Directly in the center, the fountain that this café is named after adds its melody to the world music playing over the speakers. The menu offers a full range of Guatemalan café food and creative smoothie choices as well as other drinks. Designer artisanal shops surround the beautiful courtyard.
The Mercado de Artesanias, or Handicraft Market, first opened its doors in 1974. Since then, this enclosed market has been a popular haunt for tourists seeking out authentic Guatemalan crafts to take home as a souvenir. Just a hop, skip and jump away from the Main Market and the bus terminal, the Mercado de Artesanias is a flurry of colors, with shops stocked to the rafters with traditional masks, textiles, jewelry, candles, leather goods and more. The selection on offer spans the length and breadth of the country, sourcing handicrafts from every region of Guatemala. Stop by for a quick taste of local culture. Bargaining is the norm so don't hesitate to ask for a better price.
An abundance of interesting books line the walls of this liberal-minded bookshop. The space is small, comprising four walls of books around a table, but it connects with Café No Sé in the back and customers are welcome to bring a coffee or snack to enjoy with a good book or a game of chess at the table. Information is also available on the projects of the Fundación Nahual, a Guatamalan-run human rights organization active chiefly in this region.
Just under the beauty of the Iglesia El Carmen, a bustling market of artisanal folk crafts winds between a couple entrances… you might have to ask for directions when you want to leave! An enormous selection of everything from weavings to woodworking, flutes to footwear, bracelets to backpacks, and purses to postcards awaits for the express purpose of being sold to you. Many of the crafters are there in person, selling their work, and are excellent resources for finding out about the history and process of creating your souvenir.
Amongst the many, many artesania shops in Antigua, Nim Po't clearly stands out, even at the first glance inside from the street… an enormous circular kite, traditional during the Santiago de Sacatepéquez celebration of Día de los Muertos, occupies the foreground of the deep warehouse space. It is a combination retail showcase for craftspeople, retail stores, and consignment shops. Nim Po't collects their products with care, including some of the bags, wooden carvings, bracelets, and many other items that are commonly sold in town, but also including previously worn huipiles (woven and embroidered blouses), cortes (woven skirts), fajas (woven and embroidered belts), and all the other textiles making up traditional indigenous clothing. These last are remarkable portrayals of traditional life in Guatemala because the traditional garb is hand-woven in patterns unique to each town, which each woman carries out according to her individual creativity. The weaving of a huipile, unlike the multitude of items for sale to tourists, can take months of work. Nim Po't is engaged in a project chronicling the materials and design motifs of villages throughout Guatemala, and is worth visiting both to explore their samples of textile work and to find some souvenirs of your trip. Prices are set fairly, as a visit to the Mercado de Artesanias will quickly demonstrate.