Published on January 27th, 2010 | by Mark Chesnut
Unique Gifts in Antigua Guatemala
I’m excited to be in Antigua Guatemala again; this city in the central highlands of Guatemala (about an hour from Guatemala City) is like a living piece of history, thanks to its well-preserved architecture, which have garnered it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Antigua Guatemala (often called simply “Antigua”) is also a great place to shop. Its prominence as a tourism hub has helped to attract artisans and craftspeople from around the nation. There are plenty of gorgeous items to take home with you, including countless wooden masks and intricately colored hand-woven cloth used in shawls, clothing and decorative items.
The downside of all this, of course, is that there is quite a bit of repetition in the items you see for sale here. So where do you go for something a bit different from what your neighbor has? I’ve found a few interesting places so far during my visit this week.
This accessories shop stocks handmade jewelry as well as very attractive bags made from hand-woven cloth, but with interesting patterns and textures that make them stand out from what you usually find in the tourist stands.
5a Avenida Norte No. 32A; tel. +502-7882-4638
Doña María Gordillo
This traditional dulcería (sweet shop) is a treat just to enter, what with its old-fashioned display cases and delicately detailed creations on exhibit. Whether you lean more toward marzipan, candied fruit or shredded coconut, you’ll find something to satisfy your sweet tooth.
4a Calle Oriente No. 11; tel. +502-7832-0403
Located alongside a group of interesting shops across the street from the Parque Central, El Chucho stocks some rather interesting brands of contemporary Guatemalan gifts. Worth a look are the messenger bags, purses and wallets by Urban Reclamation, a line of accessories made with recycled materials by Guatemalan urban artists.
Also environmentally conscious are the items from Lento, a company created by a group of Italian designers in collaboration with a group of local Mayan women. Lento produces bags, hats, scarves and other accessories using biodegradable, organically dyed cotton. (The brand also has limited distribution in the United States and Europe.)
El Chucho, 5a Avenida Norte No. 4, Portal del Comercio Interior; tel. +502-7832-3322
This sizeable jewelry store specializes in the work of its owner, local designer Isaias Chiquitó. His finely detailed work uses jade, metals and precious stones in interesting ways.
4a Calle Oriente No. 14; tel. +502-7882-4315
Sure, you can buy those cheap ceramic buses at dozens of souvenir stands. But for a sturdy, more attractive toy that warrants sitting on any shelf (and might actually survive being played with), head to Mico, an upscale toyshop that features plenty of imported playthings. The most interesting are the handmade wooden buses and trucks, which are colorfully painted and start at about 190 quetzales for a nice size vehicle.
4a Calle Oriente No. 7; tel. +502-7832-2061
Papeles La Luna
Handmade paper can be used in a wide variety of ways, and in this attractive boutique (next door to El Chucho), you’ll find everything from notebooks to picture frames and wonderful lamps.
5a Avenida Norte No. 4, Portal del Comercio Interior; tel. +502-7832-0039