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San Mateo Ixtatán

The small village of San Mateo Ixtatán, at 2,540 meters (9,678 ft), is certainly worth your time if you are looking to visit a traditional community near Huehuetenango.

Here most speak the Maya dialect Chuj, not Q’anjob’al as in Soloma, and the town has kept to its customs more fiercely than some of the other nearby villages. Here the majority stay home, employed in sustainable and commercial agriculture; raising cattle, sheep and goats or growing coffee and cardamom, beans, maize, wheat and potatoes. Many villagers also make and sell huipiles (long embroidered tunics often with lacy collars worn by women) and capixay (brown woollen poncho-style tops worn by men).

It gets pretty cold between November and January, with the warmest months being April and May. The town festival celebrating the Saint Matthew (San Mateo) is held September 19-20th.

The town merits your attention having its fair share of points of interest. From the town salt wells (from which the town’s name if thought to derive; ixtat meaning salt in Nahuatl) women boil water to make the famous sal negra (black salt), said to have curative powers as well as being delicious. There are a number of un-restored pre-Columbian ruin sites around the village, but the most impressive are Wajxaklajunh, which are thought to have an astrological significance. The Catholic church, with its obviously pagan images, is also very interesting. Furthermore, The Ixtatán Foundation, which set up the first high school and now works to improve the illiteracy rate here, is open to visitors. E-mail:, URL:

From Huehuetenango the chicken bus takes five or six hours to San Mateo Ixtatán on its way to Barillas. The last afternoon bus sets off about 3p.m. There is a late evening bus but this is not advised.


Other places nearby San Mateo Ixtatán: Nentón, Totonicapán , Cuatro Caminos, Quetzaltenango , Todos Santos Cuchumatan, La Mesilla, San Mateo Ixtatan, Gracias A Dios, Huehuetenango and Momostenango.

07 May 2010

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