Street art & murals at San Juan La Laguna & around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

San Juan La Laguna is one of the best villages around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala to visit art galleries and see murals on its colourful streets. Photos by Matt from Buenos Aires Street Art who was in Guatemala a few weeks ago.

Mural of musician Tzutuj Qajom playing the chirimia by artist Alvaro Tzaj (photo © BA Street Art)

The village is known for its agriculture, medicinal herbal gardens, textile and weaving work with natural dyes and more recently its quiet streets filled with murals have become a tourist attraction. This was our favourite village on Lake Atitlán.

Mural of former mayor of San Juan la Laguna (photo © BA Street Art)

One of the newest murals we saw in San Juan la Laguna is that of former mayor of San Juan la Laguna Diego Pérez Méndez painted by artist Felipe Cespedes in September 2021.

Mural depicting young Guatemalans called Tz’utuj Q’ajom with traditional Mayan instruments (photo © BA Street Art)

Mural & local girls in traditional dress (photo © BA Street Art)

We visited local textile cooperative Asociación Kemo where their all-women team work together to design and produce textiles and clothes using traditional and natural methods that have been practiced for hundreds of years by Mayan communities.

Ascelin from Asociación Kemo showing techniques to manufacture textiles & garments (photo © BA Street Art)

Ascelin from Asociación Kemo explained to us how they extract natural dyes from plants, seeds and tree bark. Interestingly, we were told that the moon can also alter the tones of different dyes from plants extracts. She also emphasised how they only use colours that occur naturally “and then return to the earth” unlike modern artificial dyes and chemicals that can cause environmental damage.

Mural showing local woman making traditional clothing using a loom (photo © BA Street Art)

San Juan la Laguna is one of a number of villages to visit by boat on Lake Atitlan that is surrounded by volcanoes (photo © BA Street Art)

Concha Municipal de San Juan La Laguna

Concha Municipal de San Juan La Laguna (photo © BA Street Art)

This covered space with basketball court was decorated with murals inside and outside by local artists in 2021.

Murals incorporating Mayan culture (photo © BA Street Art)

Some murals include traditional motifs such as sweetcorn & native animals (photo © BA Street Art)

Murals at Concha Municipal de San Juan La Laguna (photo © BA Street Art)

Chocolate factory in San Juan la Laguna (photo © BA Street Art)

The pandemic has hit local artists hard with the lack of tourists visiting the village meaning it has been difficult to sell paintings.

One of many art galleries in San Juan La Laguna with ‘bird’s eye’ mural (photo © BA Street Art)

You can find numerous art galleries like Arte Maya Xocomeel on Calle Chi Nima Ya’ where we purchased a painting from local artist Antonio Vasquez Yojcom. One style of painting that is said to be original to San Juan La Laguna is ‘vista de pajaro’ or ‘bird’s eye view’ with local people in traditional dress seen from above carrying and cutting fruit. Another theme in several local art galleries features artworks with coloured corn.

‘Vista de pajaro’ painting by Antonio Vasquez Yojcom (photo © BA Street Art)

Panajachel

View from Panajchel from where boats take passengers around Lake Atitlán (photo © BA Street Art)

Panajachel is the largest town surrounding Lake Atitlán and is a popular destination with travelers as there are many hotels, guesthouses, souvenir shops and tour agencies there that make it a good base from which to visit other villages on the water. Souvenirs, however, are in general much cheaper in the central market in Guatemala City.

Mural by Seint painted in Panajchel commonly known as Pana in August 2021 (photo © BA Street Art)

Mural of girl with tree painted by villagers in callejon Santa Elena (photo © BA Street Art)

Mural at Casa de la Cultura Panajachel (photo © BA Street Art)

Mural decorating a bar in Panajachel (photo © BA Street Art)

Mural entitled ‘Perpetual Identity’ by Glen Maldonado at hotel in Panajachel (photo © BA Street Art)

Santa Catarina Palopó

Santa Catarina Palopó is close to Panjachel and easily accessible by boat or tuk-tuk in about 10 minutes. The village hit the news in 2016 after a street art project to paint all the houses giving a striking panoramic landscape of bright yellows, greens, oranges, pinks and purples.

Stunning colourful hillside in Santa Catarina Palopó is no more (photo © BA Street Art)

The villagers in Santa Catarina greet you with a warm smile but it was rather disappointing to go there to find that most of the houses had been repainted in different shades of blue and turquoise with indigenous motifs that you don’t see from afar. Without all the houses being painted harmoniously and with roofs that had either been painted red or were unpainted – the mural project named Pintando Santa Catarina has minimal visual impact.

Project Pintando Santa Catarina has seen many houses painted blue with indigenous motifs (photo © BA Street Art)

We were told that several home owners didn’t like the idea that their houses looked just like everyone else’s and that some local families felt they had lost their identities – so no longer wanted to participate in the project.

Recently painted houses in main square in front of the church (photo © BA Street Art)

Traditional textiles & local women knitting is a common sight (photo © BA Street Art)

In some streets in Santa Catarina, you can also see women keeping Mayan traditions alive as they knit scarves, blankets, rugs & tablecloths. We also visited a small one-room museum documenting through photographs how the village has changed through the years and were dressed in native clothing.

San Pedro La Laguna

San Pedro La Laguna is a small village that is popular with backpackers, hikers and a younger crowd as a stop-over for excursions to climb the volcanoes and mountains around Lake Atitlán.

Mural by Ande Peren in San Pedro La Laguna (photo © BA Street Art)

You’ll come across a few murals if walking into the village from the jetty where boats stop from San Juan. And there are also some graffiti pieces when walking down some of the lanes off the main street.

Mural with ceramic tiles by Funda Siquieros sin Fronteras (photo © BA Street Art)

San Pedro La Laguna looking across Lake Atitlán (photo © BA Street Art)

Mural featuring a tuk tuk in San Pedro (photo © BA Street Art)

Tuk tuks or mototaxis are a common sight around San Pedro as a way of traveling between the villages and avoiding some steep climbs on foot.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out our blog post about the best murals to see in Guatemala City

All photos © Buenos Aires Street Art

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Buenos Aires Street Art and Graffiti – BA Street Art