Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The search for Black Salt in Sacapulas

Black tortillas from black maize... but not made with black salt

As I’m writing this I’m shaking my head in disbelief that I have once again been suckered in by the suggestion/ suggestiveness of a stupid guidebook. By now, I really ought to be wiser to the fact that my idea of traveling differs quite a bit from the writers of this particular guidebook (who was this idiot?!?). Nevertheless, while bored and looking for a distraction one day while waiting for the bus that Guidebook proclaimed would come, I started reading through the section on the Western Highlands of Guatemala where we were heading. Having been colonized by the Spanish in the 1500’s onwards, most descriptions read something like this: “Lovely little colonial church in centre of town….blah blah blah…town plaza…blah blah blah…market on this or that day bears investigation…blah blah blah…black salt...” Wait, wait wait… black salt? Hook, line and sinker, I was stuck on the idea of picking some of this mysterious stuff up for my mom’s spice rack. So off we head on another treacherous chicken bus journey to Sacapulas in the Western Highlands of Guatemala.

I have a love affair with these toys

Selling rose petals, Chichi

One of the flower ladies in the Chichicastenango market

Meters and meters of cloth on sale everywhere

I forgot what this fruit was called, but it was like a mix of tomato and passion fruit

Having exhausted ourselves at the famous markets in Chichicastenango that morning (colours bustling bumping yelling smelling selling blur of bodies), we arrived late afternoon in Sacapulas. In contrast to the colour overload in Chichi, Sacapulas is a dirty and uninspiring little town situated on a brown river and with a smorgasbord of nasty street dogs and stumbling men (although I will credit it with a nice location nestled in the large looming Sierra los Cuchumatanes mountains – I’m not that jaded yet!). Being too late to source some black salt, we (I) decided we should stay the night in the town’s only hotel (the dark little hospedaje was more than we could handle after the bus ride along cliff faces and hairpin turns). A plate of cold chicken and chips so greasy even I wouldn’t touch them, the StarTrek movie and Avatar in English (score!) later, it was morning and ready to start the hunt. Wait no more my black beauty, I’m coming for you!

Grooming time for all on the steps of Santo Tomas church, Chichi

I wasn't joking - he really was shaving!

Taking a break from the hectic streets below

Mayans are very strong - the way that the guy bottom left in this photo
carries his load is how all Mayans carry heavy loads (up to 80kg!)

Turns out you can buy this stuff quite easily from a lady in the small market, which is next to the town square, which is in front of the colonial church, which is in the middle of town (what a surprise). Even though I was specifically looking for it, I almost missed it. That, my friends, is because it bears no resemblance to salt whatsoever at all, but looks more like grey-brown rocks made from compacted sand. But the little old lady let me try some and it was indeed salty, so I bought five Quetzales worth in defiance of the whole sodding situation. I’d be damned if I didn’t after all that! And sorry mom, it’s not really a surprise anymore, but at least you’ll know what the little baggie of dirty sand-looking substance is when you receive it (customs permitting)! 


  1. unknown tomato passionfruit thingelmeling = priscimmon (sp?)

    I'll be blamed forever if I don't flavor at least five dishes the food with black mud for the five quetzales you spent on it

  2. No not quite persimon...we call the black mud crack salt and its sure to make any food crackalicious!

  3. beautiful colours, and interestnig text

  4. Pratim vas.....eto neću biti anonimna....Dora Grgić Jeličić, Split lipe boje i dobar tekst

  5. I just came back frm Guatemala city last week and was told about this black salt... No time to travel out in the country to look for it. So, in the airport on my way out asked a woman in a little shop and she understood what I was looking for and came up with a little baggy with black salt that looked more like two little rocks about the size of an egg that was "black Salt". I took all she had and made it thru customs. On a side note customs did confiscate my soap from the hotel and wouldn't let me take it out on the plane. Hmmmmm