One of the best things about wandering around a new city with a local is the special surprises. Lucy, a resident of Antigua for the past five years and a professional photographer and travel writer, knew exactly where to take me on my 24 hour stint in Antigua. We hit all the main tourist attractions in this UNESCO World Heritage city as well as the beloved ruins, best views, greatest cafes and restaurants and more. It was a day I’ll never forget.
After our marvelous lunch at La Cueva de Urquizo it was time to hit the pavement once again. It was well past three and we still had so much more to see and do before the sun set across the brightly colored buildings of Antigua.
This time, Lucy brought me to a special place. The public laundry washbasin called the Tanque de la Union in Antigua, where the Mayan women gather to gossip, socialize and do their laundry. In colonial times, public water tanks and washbasins served as the prime gathering place for the local women to do their wash and catch up with the latest town news and gossip. Today, these public washbasins can still be found throughout Guatemala in cities and the countryside as well around rivers and other natural water sources.
What I found so incredibly amazing about the Tanque de la Union was the explosion of colors. The Mayan women were true to form, dressed in their spectacular handcrafted clothing with their children nearby and loads and loads of laundry packed in plastic bags. The thought that they had to walk perhaps several miles to this water basin with children and clothes on their back, and then make the return trip with heavy, wet clothing on their back, was astounding.
To think of how difficult this would be to a me, a Western woman with a washer and dryer to do it all for me, made me realize once again how different our lives are. Yet for these women, perhaps a visit to the public water basin to do their laundry and laugh with their friends, was the highlight of their busy, hard day. Something to remember.
Follow me through the brilliantly colorful photos of my visit to marvel at the local women washing at the golden Tanque de la Union….