Visit San Antonio Aguascalientes Textiles Market

Maya Woman Grinding Coffee by Hand

One of Guatemala’s most well-known exports is traditional textiles, woven by Maya women, many who learn the craft from a very young age. As far as textiles go, the town of San Antonio Aguascalientes (translated as San Antonio Hot Springs, or “Hot Waters” if you prefer the more literal translation) has the best reputation for quality textiles.

The town of San Antonio – referred locally as just “Aguascalientes” – is actually very close to Antigua, about a 15-minute bus ride away. Antigua often gets dismissed as being too touristy, or “not Guatemalan enough”. Truth is, you can certainly make yourself at home in a very “Guatemalan” town without having to sacrifice the conveniences of living far away from Antigua, or far away from a major international airport, as is the case with Lake Atitlan, Rio Dulce, Xela, or Flores, which are nice in their own right, but inconvenient for some because of their distance to the city.

Getting to San Antonio Aguascalientes

San Antonio is nestled in a valley, away from the main roads, and is a safe, very picturesque town. As you approach, it’s easy to catch views of the village and its smaller, sister community of Santa Catarina Barahona.

The town of San Antonio Aguascalientes

The town of San Antonio Aguascalientes

There’s no need to pay an expensive taxi ride to get into town. For Q3.50, you can catch a chicken bus in Antigua, at the bus terminal, that will drop you off a block away from the central plaza. All buses have the name of the town they service on a sign above the front window. Catch the one that says San Antonio/Sta. Catarina Barahona. I’ve noticed that for some reason, San Antonio-bound buses have a green paint scheme. Don’t rely on that though, always check the name of the town the bus is headed.

San Antonio-Bound Chicken Bus

San Antonio-Bound Chicken Bus

As soon as the bus descends into the valley, the driver will make an extended stop at the bottom of the hill. Get off the bus and walk one block, towards the yellow church in front of the bus.

San Antonio Aguascalientes Church

San Antonio Aguascalientes Church

Becoming the Unofficial Photographer at a Maya Wedding

As my family and I approached the park, I noticed a group of people heading from the park towards the church. At first, I thought we were about to witness a religious procession, but it turned out to be a Mayan wedding! I quickly took my camera out of my bag and cautiously started taking pictures from a distance.

When I got closer, a man with the wedding party smiled and encouraged me to walk up to the bride and groom. I was also welcome to take pictures if I wanted to. I wasn’t sure it was proper for me to do it, but he motioned someone from the wedding party, and they smiled and waved me over to the entrance of the church, where they had stopped to have pictures taken. I walked up to the bride and groom, and timidly offered congratulations. The couple and the bride’s parents were very gracious and made me feel at ease, chatting me up about from where I was, how I liked Guatemala and similar small talk.

I noticed the groom had walked up to the church with the bride, instead of waiting at the altar. The bride’s mother explained to me that their wedding customs. The groom has to pick up his bride at her parents’ home – where she’s supposed to live until married.  After the wedding, the now-husband takes the wife to his parent’s house, where they’re to live until the couple finally moves to their place, which the groom has been working and saving up for years before the wedding to move in with his wife.

I offered to send the couple the pictures I took via email. The bride promptly wrote down her Yahoo email address for me. I don’t know why I hesitated to ask for her email, maybe thinking they might not be up to speed with technology, but that was naïve of me. Technology is global, and there aren’t many places left that are that far-removed from its reach.

At first glance, a Mayan wedding dress is not very different from the typical every-day dress. But I didn’t have to stand very close to the bride to notice that her dress was no run-of-the-mill traje (outfit). Her huipil (traditional blouse) was not only obviously new, but the quality and craftsmanship were obviously much higher than that of huipiles I see every day. As such, it is more expensive – at about three times – than what a typical wedding dress costs here.

Mayan Wedding in San Antonio Aguascalientes

Mayan Wedding in San Antonio Aguascalientes

I thought briefly about taking more pics from inside the church, but they already had a photographer, and I felt I’d be intruding on their wedding even more. I took some last pics from the doorway and headed to my next stop.

Maya Bride Walks to the Altar with Her Mother, Father, and Groom

Maya Bride Walks to the Altar with Her Mother, Father, and Groom

San Antonio Aguas Calientes Handicrafts Market

The handicrafts market is a two-story building that sits next to the church, diagonally across the park. It is a well-run place that sees loads of tour buses come and go every day.

San Antonio Aguascalientes Handicrafts Market

San Antonio Aguascalientes Handicrafts Market

In fact, we walked in about five minutes before a huge tour bus of French tourists showed up. Vendors were milling about and when the tour bus pulled up, and everyone sprung into action to man their battle stations. Children took their positions at a display by the front entrance, as did a woman who later showed tourists how they ground coffee beans by hand. Sure, it was staged, but not far removed from what they do in real-life, even if it’s a lot more convenient for them to buy ground coffee at the local supermarket.

Maya Woman Grinding Coffee by Hand

Maya Woman Demonstrating How Coffee is Ground By Hand

The market is clean, and the quality of the textiles and goods is very high. Greater than anything I’d seen in Antigua’s handicrafts markets anyway.

San Antonio Aguascalientes Textiles

San Antonio Aguascalientes Textiles

Handicrafts Market is Well Stocked with Quality Goods

Handicrafts Market is Well Stocked with Quality Goods

Maya Girl Learning the Trade

Maya Girl Learning the Trade

Now, something I have to point out is that each region in Guatemala has a particular design when it comes to traditional dress. In San Antonio, for example, their traditional dress (the huipil or blouse specifically) is woven with the same pattern on both sides – this makes weaving a San Antonio huipil harder than others, which is why they take pride in their weaving abilities. Their huipiles are considered by many the best in Guatemala.

In fact, I struck up a conversation with a vendor, who told me that young girls in San Antonio start learning how to weave using a back-strap loom from the age of eight – the age of the girls in the pic below – to become familiar with the traditional patterns that are incorporated into the design.

San Antonio residents are friendly to tourists

San Antonio residents are friendly to tourists

Additionally, the handicrafts market has a small museum that has traditional dresses on display of most major regions in Guatemala, and it’s very much worth a visit. By the way, vendors here are used to dealing with tourists, so be ready to haggle. Whatever price they quote you, they’ll probably sell it to you by half the initially quoted price.

Once we finished touring the market, we went out to check out the central plaza.

San Antonio Aguas Calientes Main Plaza

As far as squares go, San Antonio’s was small, but it was very well-kept, clean, and inviting.

San Antonio Aguascalientes main plaza

San Antonio Aguascalientes main plaza

San Antonio Aguascalientes Fountain

San Antonio Aguascalientes Fountain

San Antonio Aguascalientes Public Basin

San Antonio Aguascalientes Public Basin

I liked the vibe of San Antonio Aguas Calientes and would recommend it as a town to live in, although it is better suited for people with vehicles, and that can manage Spanish reasonably well.

As a place to visit? I highly recommend spending half a day there.

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Have you visited Aguascalientes yet?

Guatemala Pensionado Program Benefits

Guatemala Pensionado Program

I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people over the past few weeks regarding the information I posted about the legal requirements for the Guatemala Pensionado Program. While I haven’t really bothered to do the paperwork myself because it’s not something I’m interested in doing at the moment, I really became curious about what were the Guatemala Pensionado Program benefits.

Other than the fact that a Pensionado doesn’t have to make a run for the border every six months, there’s precious little information in English as to what exactly are the benefits. The Guatemalan government, it seems, doesn’t seem to make a concerted effort to pitch the country to foreigners as a potential long-term or retirement destination like Panama and Costa Rica do.

Guatemala Pensionado Program

Want to be a Guatemalan?

Well, I did find information about what sort of benefits you can expect as a Guatemala Pensionado status holder. By the way, the benefit also applies to those who obtain an Investor’s Residency or “Rentista” status.

The information is in Spanish, so I’ll do my best to translate the information below. The caveat is that I’m not a lawyer, so don’t hold me responsible if the information is not complete ;) If you’re a Guatemala Pensionado or Investors, I’d love to hear your experiences and comments below as to the accuracy of this info.

That said, let’s get on with the show (emphasis and underlining on the text all mine). Article 30 is where the good stuff really starts:

Updated 9/10/2017

Guatemala Pensionado Program Benefits

ARTICLE 24. – To apply for pensioner and investor status, foreigners must have lawful permanent income generated outside the country and be willing to stay indefinitely in the country without engaging in any kind of paid work. The Directorate General of Immigration and Consulates of Guatemala duly accredited abroad, where appropriate, are obliged to require documentation deemed necessary.

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ARTICLE 25. – For the purposes of this Act, shall mean pensioners, those who are receiving a pension or retirement of governments, international organizations or foreign private companies, and, for investors, those who enjoy stable income, permanent, externally generated by any of the following reasons:
a) Deposits and/or investments in banks established abroad ;

b ) Investments in companies established abroad ;

c ) Remittances originating real estate, religious and academic support ;

d ) Investments in foreign currency securities issued by financial institutions legally authorized to operate in Guatemala ;

e) Investments in securities issued in domestic currency by financial institutions legally authorized to operate in Guatemala, where they were purchased with funds obtained by foreign exchange in any of those same institutions, and,

f ) Investments in securities denominated in foreign currency and/or national with the State or its institutions, provided they are obtained by the foreign exchange in any of the country’s financial institutions legally authorized.

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ARTICLE 29. – People who have acquired the quality of resident pensioners or investors may enter and leave the country at any time and are exempt from payment of annual dues per household.

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ARTICLE 30. – Foreigners who acquire the quality of resident pensioners or investors will be entitled to the following benefits:

1) Exemption from import duties except for Value Added Tax ( VAT ), caused by the introduction of your household goods up to the amount fixed in the regulations of this law, this amount may be subdivided into headings, as of importation within the first year of residence concerned;

2 ) Exemption from income tax that encumbers declared sums from abroad, to be entitled to the rights granted herein;

3 ) Exemption from customs duties on imports caused by the introduction of a motor vehicle. The applicant will enjoy this benefit once every five years, for those reasons, beneficiaries may import or purchase through a local agency, a vehicle for personal or family use, free of charges and fees, except VAT added Tax (VAT ). The CIF value of the vehicle to which you will apply for the exemption in relation to the resident’s monthly income and in no case exceed twenty (25 ) times the value of that income. If the value of the vehicle exceeds the resulting amount the beneficiary will pay all taxes on the difference.
The vehicle may be sold or transferred to third parties exempt from such taxes elapsed after five ( 5) years from the date of import or purchase in the country. After this period of years, the person acquires the right to import another vehicle and so on every 5 years.

4) Exemption from payment of the fees due for registration, renewal, and change of immigration status.

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ARTICLE 31. – People who have acquired the quality of resident pensioners or investors, the documentary must provide documentation of pension income or income to the country during all months of living in it. In case of temporary absence, the resident must provide documentation of income from a pension or annuity corresponding to six months in a calendar year. To provide proof, the interested party must submit an annual affidavit of survivorship and that the party is still receiving the pension or income that led to the granting of the residence to the Ministry of Finance with a copy to the Migracion General.

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ARTICLE 32. – Residents pensioners or investors can not deal with paid work. Excluded from this prohibition residents pensioners or investors who the following applies:

1) Guatemalans who were referred to in Article 27 of this law;

2) People who invest in productive activities for the country in industrial projects, agricultural, tourism, handicrafts, housing or other national interest with the approval of Ministry of Economics and the Directorate General of Immigration, and,

3) Those who provide professional services as consultants to state institutions, autonomous bodies, universities and institutes of higher technical or craft.

In these cases, the resident pensioner will be taxed the respective taxes.

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ARTICLE 33. – People who give up the benefits of this law within a period not exceeding five (5) years, must pay all duties that were exempted or re-export the goods previously imported under its protection.

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ARTICLE 36. – The condition of resident pensioners or investors will be lost for the following reasons:
1) Failure to comply with the obligations inherent in the quality of resident pensioners or investors;

2) Providing false information regarding their socioeconomic status and,

3) When party ceases to perceive permanent income referred to this law and have no other equivalent subsistence.

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ARTICULO 37.- If the cause of the loss of resident pensioner status was the result of the commission of a crime, the party shall be punished by being ordered the immediate payment of taxes and/or waived fees plus a surcharge of ten percent thereof, without prejudice to any criminal proceedings which are entitled under the law.

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ARTICLE 42. – Foreigners with at least a year of being married to Guatemalans may acquire permanent resident status by the mere fact of being married, having to submit the documentation provided in the regulations. In the case of dissolution of marriage, the resident must apply to the Directorate General of Immigration, the ratification of his permanent resident status under with the provisions of this law and its regulations.

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Hmmm… Article 42 is mighty interesting to me. I’ll have to find more information on it. By the way, if you want to see the full document where I got this info from, feel free to check it out here (PDF in Spanish) (PDF).

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So there you have it.

Share your questions, comments below!