A Legendary Lagoon
By Hans del Cid
Guatemala City, Guatemala
The highland country of Guatemala is known for its spectacular views, and Chicabal Lagoon is one of those places that adds a little something to the beauty of the area.
Chicabal Lagoon is situated inside a volcano nearly 50 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. It is located in the region Quetzaltenango, which is named after the quetzal, the national bird. The quetzal is a large bird (over 30 centimeters) with iridescent red and green plumage and is quite a sight if you are lucky enough to see one.
Journey from the City
Driving the 281 kilometers from the capital, Guatemala City, you will pass through beautiful mountains and ancient cities. You will arrive at Chicabal Lagoon in the middle of one of the last remaining rain forests of Guatemala. This lagoon lies at an elevation of 2,712 meters. What makes this lagoon so special is the intense fog that is always hovering over the water, creating a magical setting.
There are quite a few legends about this lagoon, but perhaps the most interesting comes from the Maya, who believe that the lagoon is sacred. Every year after holy week, thousands of people that practice the Maya religion come here to ask their deities for rain, so they can have a productive agriculture year. Without frequent rain, crops will not grow because of the porous nature of the ground, which absorbs excess water within hours.
Another part of the Maya legend says that when you are born you get a nahual, a protection animal, who walks with you your whole life. If you do something dishonest, or against the Maya practices, your nahual will walk away and leave you to fend for yourself. In order to recover your protection animal, you have to come to Chicabal and look into the fog. You try to make out the image of your nahual on the other side of the lagoon. If you can see your it through the mist, you have been forgiven, and your nahual rejoins you on your journey back home.
Have a suggestion for this story? We’d love for you to submit it!
- If Chicabal Lagoon is 281 kilometers from Guatemala City, and you travel an average of 40 kilometers per hour, how long will it take you to get there?
- The lagoon is situated inside a volcano how many miles from the Pacific Ocean?
- This lagoon is located 281 kilometers from Guatemala City. Change 281 kilometers to meters. Now change it to miles.
- What is the elevation of the lagoon?
Social Justice Question
What do you think should be done to preserve the religious quality of this place for the Indigenous Maya people? Would you advocate closing it off to those who do not believe in its legend? Why or why not?
- Video scenery of the lagoon
- Facts about the city of Quetzaltenango/Xela
- Drone footage of Quetzaltenango/Xela
- Information in Spanish about nahuals
- Facts about the quetzal
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