National Geographic : 1947 Oct
In the hot coast lands near Retalhuleu, I later saw the tall hormigo tree, from the reddish wood of which marimba keys are cut. Indians call the tree the "wood that sings." Guatemalan marimbas, particularly in the bass notes, resonate with a pe culiar rattling sound. The makers achieve this effect by stretching a piece of pig intestine over a hole near the bottom of each resona tor. Rings of tacky black beeswax hold the mem brane stretched tightly over each hole. "Marimba players in small villages have to keep an eye on the gobs of wax on the resonators," said Don Mario. "Small boys like to steal the wax and chew it." Marimbas in the big towns play everything from serious music to jazz, but village marimbas usu ally play only the son, the national dance rhythm of Guatemala. From the lake the road climbs higher into the mountains; through So lola, where Indians gather on Friday in the market place that overlooks the blue lake far below (pages 529, 564), and on to Santo Ntinl eoraphic Tomis Chichicastenango, Father and Son center of the Quiche tribe, , ' Thin, reedy music and a town well known to booming of the dr visitors to Guatemala bagpipe music, the r (pages 553-556). distinguish different Here Indians pray on the steps of their classic white church, swing ing censers as they slowly work their way up to the church entrance. Ribbon Weavers and Costume Makers West of Chichicastenango, through Totoni capan, town of the ribbon weavers and Con quista-dance costume makers, past San Fran cisco El Alto of the great Friday market, lies 7,650-foot-high Quezaltenango, second city of the Republic. Set amid yellow wheat fields, it has the barred windows, cobblestoned streets, and other-century quiet that the capital has lost. In Quezaltenango I saw carved jadeite rings city Kodachrome by Luis Marden Furnish Music for Ceremonial Dances in Solola ic of the chirimia (musette), punctuated by off-beat um, makes discordant music to the foreign ear. Like otes all sound alike at first, but with time some ears can tunes. and pendants from ancient ruins (the capital of the Quiches was near here), and in book shops I examined vellum-bound volumes three centuries old. I visited Quezaltenango in September, time of the annual fair (page 561). In a mock In dian town representatives of a dozen outly ing villages set up displays in thatched huts. While I looked at prize fruits and vegetables, a delegate from one village, asking if I was an American, handed me two enormous pota toes, saying, "Please give these to the Presi dent of your country. Tell him the Indians of Quezaltenango are well and hope he is the same."