Nispero Festival In San Juan Del Obispo, Guatemala

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    San Juan del Obispo, Guatemala, hosts a yearly Festival del Nispero, which is held at the town’s main plaza. The plaza has outstanding views of the Panchoy Valley, and on a clear day, you can easily spot La Merced Church in Antigua. Because the town is on the slopes of Volcan Agua, it’s noticeably a few degrees cooler than Antigua.

    What is a Níspero or Mispero?

    Originally from China, nísperos are also known as a “loquat” – not related to kumquat. It’s popular in Mexico, where it’s known as mispero. The taste is a cross between peach and mango with a hint of orange. The texture is soft, like that of canned peaches.

    Nispero, or Mispero, or Loquat

    Nisperos, also known as misperos and loquats

    San Juan del Obispo is the perfect place to grow them because when grown at a lower altitude, nisperos tend to be much more acidic and not as sweet.

    Festival del Nispero

    The festival is held in November – prime níspero harvesting season – and lasts two days. It’s dedicated to all things níspero, as you will see below.

    Vino de Níspero, San Juan del Obispo

    The sign reads “This is the place where Eve gave a Nispero to Adam, turning San Juan into a paradise.” They don’t believe the apple story here.

    Because the town is a haven for artisans and Guatemala’s best chocolatiers, the festival is well worth a visit. It is also where Palacio del Obispo (Bishop’s Palace) is located, the former home of Guatemala’s first bishop, Francisco Marroquin – the man on the Q100 bill.

    Huge sculpture of nisperos

    Nispero sculpture

    We arrived Saturday at 9 am the supposed start time, but the organizers were still setting up. The band, however, was just starting to warm up.

    Musicians at Festival del Nispero

    Musicians at Festival del Nispero

    Fountain at San Juan del Obispo

    At San Juan del Obispo’s fountain

    The festival kicked-off eventually, with the singing of Guatemala’s national anthem.

    Singing the Guatemalan anthem to kick off the festival

    Singing Guatemala’s national anthem

    Handicrafts at San Juan del Obispo

    The craftsmanship of Obispo’s artisans is notches above the usual mass-produced stuff you find at Antigua’s handicrafts markets. Not to mention, you also get to meet the artisans.

    Handicrafts, San Juan del Obispo

    Procession – Handicrafts

    buses, San Juan del Obispo

    Chicken Buses – Handicrafts

    handmade candle lanterns

    Bought a couple candle holders

    Nispero Wine

    In Obispo, there are a few other products made from nisperos – jams are tasty. But by far the most widely sought after product is fruit wine made by fermenting nisperos. It takes a year and a half to produce nispero wine. There are also several fruit wines produced here, such as blackberry, mango, and guava – pretty much any fruit in season.

    Vinos del Abuelo, a shop about half a block away from the main plaza, is the most well-known of all the artisan winemakers. I fully took advantage of the free tastings offered, eventually settling for the nispero version. Guava wine came in a close second. Their marketing slogan is as punny as they come:

    “El que a San Juan vino y no probó vino, entonces, ¿a qué vino?”

    In Spanish, the word “vino” can be translated as either “wine” or “visit/come”. It roughly translates as: “He who came to San Juan and didn’t taste the wine, then why did he come?” I disagree, as there are plenty of reasons to visit other than the wine.

    Vinos del Abuelo - nispero wine

    Pick between wines made from fermented nispero, guava, mango, pineapple, blueberry, among others

    And of course, the minute there’s something remotely successful business-wise in Guatemala, a copycat will spring up. Didn’t try the other winemakers, though the bottles are definitely pretty. Supposedly, the colorant added is natural and doesn’t change the flavor at all. Or so they say.

    wine for sale at the nispero destival

    Nispero wine – in color

    San Juan del Obispo Chocolate

    Another sought after product is Obispo’s artisanal chocolate, considered the best in all of Guatemala. While it’s not chocolate in the traditional sense you might be thinking – Godiva, Hershey’s, et al – it is delicious when prepared as a hot beverage, the way that Mayans drank it centuries ago when they first invented it.

    Nowadays, you can find many varieties – rice, cardamom, almond, cinnamon, even spicy chile – and San Juan is the best place to see how artisans make it, still using traditional methods. Not to mention, get it cheaper as well. There are several to choose from, though you can’t go wrong with Chocolates D’Taza.

    Chocolates d'taza in San Juan del Obispo

    We bought some – a pound will set you back anywhere between Q16 to Q25

    depending on the ingredient added to the chocolate.

    I also feasted on dulces tipicos (traditional sweets). There’s an excellent shop behind the park, on the other side of the Bishop’s mansion. Try the baked coconut treats – amazing (Q3 each).

    Dulces Tipicos, San Juan del Obispo

    Traditional Guatemalan sweets are reeeally sweet – diabetics, keep away

    Liked them so much I went back for seconds to take home. They didn’t make it to the next day.

    Cocada de Reina, Canillitas de Canela, Cocadas HorneadasCocada de Reina (lower center), Canillitas de Canela (foreground right/left),

    Cocadas Horneadas (background)

    San Juan del Obispo Church

    After we check out the stalls, there wasn’t much else to do as the church was closed. We chose to take a tour of the Bishop’s Palace, which is behind the church.Iglesia San Juan del Obispo, Antigua Guatemala

    San Juan del Obispo’s church

    After touring the palace, we decided to return to Antigua to run some errands. When we came back in the afternoon, I was ecstatic there were weddings taking place, which meant I could finally check out the beautiful art inside.

    Wedding, San Juan del Obispo

    Wedding at San Juan del Obispo

    I mean, it’s a town of artisans, so the figures were supposed to be top-notch. They didn’t disappoint.

    Interior of San Juan del Obispo Church

    Inside San Juan del Obispo Church

    Chapel at San Juan del Obispo Church

    Chapel, San Juan del Obispo Church

    statue, San Juan del Obispo Church

    Image, San Juan del Obispo Church

    As we were about to leave, I noticed a stand of tamales colorados (red tamales) at the far end. We ended up buying a few to take home for dinner.

    My wife is a picky tamal eater – I’m not – and she declared these to be one of the best if not the best, she’s ever had. We bought them from Tamales de la Abuela Rafa, which is located on 1a Avenida Norte, Callejon San Jose #2B, San Juan del Obispo – Saturdays only.

    tamales in San Juan del Obispo

    Tamales de la Abuela Rafa – San Juan del Obispo

    In all, it was a great way to spend the day. Ate lots of great food, took home some chocolate, wine, and handicrafts. Don’t miss San Juan del Obispo’s next nispero festival!

    *****

    Click here for more to do in Antigua Guatemala.

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