One of our favorite parts of Guatemala is the markets. Everything is for sale: local vegetables, fresh meat, spices, crafts, clothes, housewares, you name it. Since most folks do not own refrigerators, every town has one or two market days and large pueblos usually have an on-going market.
Vicki and I like the crafts. We are accumulating a collection of large wooden animals. I have a six foot giraffe, a five foot egret with a fish in his mouth, a small alligator, a mini-zebra and big cat. These are brightly colored and a big favorite with the grandkids. Vicki goes for the beautiful, hand-thrown china and the jewelry. The latter is mimicked in some of her most expensive catalogues. The local prices, of course, are fabulous.
To get the best prices you have to learn how to bargain because everything is inflated for the ignorant gringoes that naively walk up and down the streets. Bargaining is an art, but as a dumb gringo I sometimes fall prey to the feeling of wanting to help these poor artisans out. How successful I am depends on my mood. You start off by showing interest and the proprietor will quickly engage you, lauding whatever you’re interested in. All the while he is assessing you. If you stand there long enough and don’t buy, h
e will come down slightly on the price. If that seems to work, he will slowly reduce the price until you bite. As a potential buyer you have the ultimate bargaining tool—that is to walk away. If you do that, you will quickly find his bottom line. But as I noted you can start to feel guilty.
So enjoy the markets. Make sure whatever you buy will fit inside your suitcase. Proprietors know this and large paintings easily come off the frame and can be rolled up. The large wooden animals come in pieces. Currently, you can bring $800 into the country duty free. It will be a fond memory of your stay. And you are helping the local economy.