Woodcarving has been part of Mesoamerican craft traditions since pre-Columbian times, although the jungle climate means very few ancient examples have survived. Since the Spanish conquest, Catholicism has become a major influence on the arts and craft of Central America, although it’s often mixed with elements of indigenous cultures.
This wooden figure of St. Francis of Assisi is hand-carved in family workshops in very rural villages surrounding Chichicastenango. Kiln-dried wood is shaped using basic hand tools; then other family members paint the bright designs.
Visit our Guatemalan Gift Shop to shop a range of items hand-crafted by artisans. Explore our favorite places and moments in our behind-the-scenes movie and slide show from our location shoot in Antigua, Guatemala.
Hand carved and hand painted in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.
4"W x 15"H x 2 1/2"D
St. Francis is the patron saint of children and animals, and is one of the most popular saints in the Catholic cannon. Every year on the Sunday closest to St. Francis’s October 4 feast day, many churches hold a blessing of the animals in his honor.
In the same way that Catholicism in Mesoamerica mixed with native traditions, St. Francis’s blessing of the animals has now expanded to include secular celebrations as part of World Animals Day.
Chichicastenango’s colorful indoor and outdoor market draws thousands of villagers and tourists alike to buy and sell food, flowers, weavings, pottery, woodcarvings, and more. The town is home to 100,000 people, half of whom live in rural villages on the outskirts of town.
Despite the Roman Catholic Iglesia de Santo Tomás in the midst of the market, Chichicastenango very much retains its pre-Columbian Maya culture. The church is even built on top of a Mayan temple, and Maya and Catholic priests both use the church for their ritualsan excellent example of the ways in which indigenous and Spanish culture mix, mingle, and remain separate all within the same town.