Mercado de Noche
(Night Market)
38" x 50", oil on canvas

Mariano Gonzalez Chavajay

Theme: common; Execution: Exceptional

In former times a night market lit by candles and kerosene lanterns existed in Santiago Atitlán. Santiago’s location has always stimulated its markets. From Santiago Atitlán a road goes via a mountain pass from the Lake Atitlan region down to Chcacao in the coastal lowlands. This road gives Santiago Atitlán status as one of the gateways to and from the fincas [plantations] of Pacific coast. Many Tz’utuhil speaking Mayans have moved from Lake Atitlán to Chicacao where they work on the fincas. These Tz’utuhil Mayans traveling to and from Chicacao bring produce from the hot coastal area to Santiago’s markets while Mayan people from the towns around the lake bring produce and wares from the cooler highlands.


This night market has captured the imagination of the Tz’utuhil artists as well as the buying public. Although such a night market has not been seen for years, all Tz’utuhil artists paint it and they often paint it repeatedly. The night market, along with picking coffee and picking cotton, constitute the most popular Tz’utuhil themes. Some artists produce huge quantities of tiny quickly-painted versions of the night market for the many tourists visiting Santiago Atitlán. Mariano Gonzalez Chavajay’s large paintings of the night market, by contrast, rank among the most accomplished and beautiful of all versions. Perhaps the challenge of being able to render the night light draws fine artists such as Mariano to repeatedly tackle this theme. Over the years I have seen and owned a number of Mariano’s large format Night Markets. Each one has its good qualities, but especially in regard to the faces, the light and traje [native dress] this version outshines others.