Seeing cucuruchos in their purple robes is a sure sign that a procession is nearby. Since the days of the Spanish colonia there has been an unwritten rule that no cucurucho should leave the ranks of the faithful that accompany processions from start to finish. The only exception to this rule was to step away from the procession in order to eat and drink.
Chinchivir is known as “the beverage of cucuruchos”. It’s a light brown-colored drink that has been made in La Antigua for decades. The proprietors of the “Don Chepe Armas” store are renowned for being the preeminent maker of chinchivir.
Chinchivir is an artisanal beverage made with the juice of several varieties of limes and lemons, along with a special mix of herbs and spices – like cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. It’s a secret recipe that has been handed down through the generations, and it’s a drink that’s sure to quench your thirst during warm days of seeing alfombras and watching procesiones.
Different varieties of atol have been an ever-present part of Antigüeños’ (and Guatemalans’) lives since the colonial era. These thick, hot drinks are based on different ingredients like corn, cornmeal, plantain, and beans, and can be found for sale in almost any park in La Antigua throughout the year, and the Lenten season is no exception. Cooking these atoles takes a lot of time, especially because there are many myths, legends, and superstitions about how they’re cooked and who may or may not partake in their preparation. It’s said that only one person can prepare corn atol and if someone else even touches the stirring spoon or ladle, they may end up getting cut. There are even rules that especially apply to pregnant women, whose mere presence in the kitchen when an atol is being prepared is said to cause the atol to burn and ruin the taste.
The routes of the processions are usually very long, and because big containers of water or other beverages are too heavy to carry comfortably, sales of frescos are among the most sought after throughout the day of a procession. A fresco (which translates as “fresh”) is a sweetened natural drink served cold, such as horchata (made from rice and cinnamon), tamarindo (a tamarind-based drink), rosa de Jamaica (a hibiscus tea) and limonada con chan (lemonade with chia seeds).
You’ll be able to quickly and easily recognize a fresco vendor in the crowd: they have large glass containers filled with ice and various frescos. Although you can get the drinks to go – served in plastic cups – or you can drink your fresco right there in a glass, one of the very chapín (Guatemalan) ways to drink fresco is to get it to go in a plastic bag with a straw; it won’t weigh you down, and you can carry it easily. (But don’t set it down, or you’ll spill it all!)
Enjoy Guatemala’s traditional beverages, and remember that you’re only able to try some of them during this time of year. So what are you waiting for? Try them… you’re sure to like them.
At some of the food stands in front of churches, it’s not uncommon to see a large number of big clay pots next to a giant pot being warmed by a charcoal fire. These food stalls are the perfect place to be introduced to a traditional Lenten drink which – unless you’re very, very lucky – you won’t see again until November and December: the batido.
As with all traditional Guatemalan beverages, the recipe for this drink is a secret that is never disclosed by the families who have prepared batidos for years. Some of the ingredients – which can be guessed because of the delicious flavors – are: brown sugar from sugar cane, pineapple, allspice, cinnamon, and pinol (a flour made from toasted corn). These ingredients – as well as those that will never be revealed – are whipped and beaten for hours (thus “batido” which means “beaten”) until the drink takes on a perfect consistency. The scrumptious flavor is often a surprise for those who try it for the first time, and there are many more who seek it out because it’s a traditional Lenten favorite.
Written by: Raul Armas