San Antonio PolopĆ³

                                                                    Commerce in San Antonio Palopo

San Antonio Palopo had no roads until 1980. The only way to access this village was by footpaths or boats. Commerce was a very physical task for anyone who had to climb up the mountain trail to a place called Godinez. Men have told me their stories of climbing the steep mountainsides with one hundred pound sacks of coffee or corn on their backs. In the dry season this was a difficult task due to the slippery soil and thieves. But during the rainy season this was a very dangerous way to earn a living.

Man Carrying Bricks building in san antonio palopo
Water taxi, launcha, san antonio palopo

Most jobs in San Antonio Palopo consist of general labor. Many men here are well skilled in building with cement blocks. They can quickly build sturdy houses out of cement with only primitive tools. Building a house high on the mountain sides is very laborious. Young men will carry one hundred pound sacks of cement and cargo of cement blocks up steep foot paths often from the lake shore to the high elevations of the upper part of the town.

The locals are also very skilled at building roads with paving bricks. If motivated they can complete a road very quickly. 

Many families have small stores ( tiendas ) which sell a range of items such as chips, chili, clothes and toys. 

There are several families which owns several boats ( launchas ) which they use to as a ferry between San Antonio Palopo and San Lucas Toliman. They also use these launchas as a taxi service for tourist. 


Farming coffee, corn and onions is still a common job for many families who live in San Antonio Palopo.  The onions fields are often terraced in the high altitudes of Lake Atitlan which the lake itself is almost a mile high from sea level. Coffee and Corn are planted on the steep mountain slopes. The only tools for farming used are a machete and hoe.

Watering the crops is a very difficult task because there is no running water available on the mountain slopes.  Men women and children carry the water up in colorful plastic jugs from the lakeshore.  

 Photos Below starting at top is a woman grinding corn to make Masa ( Corn Paste ) Now it is more common for the Maya to use a Molina which is either electric or diesel powered grinding machines. Girls making tortillas. Sun drying corn.

Woman making masa, San Antonio Palopo

 To make the dough for tortillas the locals will take their dried corn to a local molina. A molina is a grinding mill often open at early hours. The molina normally runs from 4:30 - 9:00 AM.  Then again near lunch time. 

Women will line up with their plastic bowls of corn and wait for it to be ground into a fine mush so they can use it to make fresh tortillas. The Molina is busiest during holidays in Guatemala and during the town's annual fiestas. The Molina is often a place were women like to catch up on the local gossip and news.

News spreads fast around town through gossip and the loud speaker located on top of the municipal building. Announcements are made everyday from these loudspeakers and can be heard from every house in San Antonio Palopo. 

Earnings from a typical Molina are around 200 dollars a month

 Most people have two or three jobs so that they can support a family. It is rather uncommon for a man in San Antonio Palopo to only have one job. Frequently the family members all chip in on living cost and purchases so they can have some basic luxuries. 

 Not too many years ago it was common to see coffee and corn being sun dried on cement rooftops or on tarps that covered level earth. Now seeing coffee roasted this way in San Antonio Palopo is a rare sight, however corn is still dried this way.

The dry corn is removed from the cob by hand. This is time consuming and painful on the fingers for a person like myself who never done this before in my life.  But this is often done with the company of friends and family and conversations and laughs are common with this work when being done together.  

Girls making tortillas in San Antonio Palopo
Maize San Antonio Palopo

 Wages earned in San Antonio Palopo are often very low. Many times people are payed less than the Guatemalan minimum wage which as of 2012 is roughly 1,600 Quetazals each month. This equals roughly to  230. Dollars each month.

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