Pastores – Boots
If you are like the Yolkobsens, you don’t really like to go where tourists flock. We’re honestly, well, pretty snobby about that and, of course, don’t consider ourselves to be of the gringo feather. Deluded though we may be, we headed one Sunday afternoon to Pastores, about a 10-minute cab ride north of Antigua Guatemala. A chicken bus will drop you off too in about 30 minutes.
Our taxi driver, Oville, thought we were nuts when we said we wanted to visit Pastores, famous for its boot making, for a full two hours. The thing about Pastores is that it’s known for its boot making and not much else. The main drag of the town is a dusty segment of the road leading from Antigua Guatemala. It is dominated by the shop-fronts of real boot craftsmen and offers a full variety of classically pointed, blunted, or slightly rounded cowboy boots in tooled leather and a variety of animal skins, along with good old reliable leather. Though boots dominate the consumer menu here, there are belts, bags and even saddles to be had.
Mr. Y had a yen for a pair of cowboy boots, but first we toured the town, population 10,000. This is an authentic Guatemalan town with no baroquely detailed cathedral or fabled ruins to guide the tourist hordes to its gates (well, there are no gates either). It’s a real primer on what a typical town of its size looks and feels like. The people are friendly and smiling as we passed trying to take in, respectfully, what life is like in an ordinary small town away from the tourist enchantments of Antigua Guatemala. A river runs through Pastores, with an arched bridge (looking like it might have had a million repairs, but still holding to a Spanish conqueror heritage). There is some ordinary magic here. Mr. Y. got a great picture of a classic old-time barber chair framed by a centuries-old doorway.
The children spying us pointed us out to their parents who also laughed at the exotics lost in their town. Satisfied after sitting for a while in the main plaza, Pastores’ central park, and touring the rolling and hilly streets, framed buy the region’s green highlands, we set out to find a pair of cowboy boots.
Back down to the boot strip we went. Here we found boot makers at their sewing machines surrounded by the wares they produce and which give the town its well-deserved reputation as the boot capital of this part of Guatemala. We were delighted that we were the only gringo tourists visiting that afternoon. The rest of the visitors were Guatemalans trying on boots and shoes (the ladies) and bartering for footwear bargains.
Prices for most of the cowboy boots started at 450 Quetzales, most can be negotiated down by about 50 to 100 Q. So a great pair of boots could be had for the equivalent of about $40 to $45 USD.
Unfortunately, Mr. Y’s feet were genetically unsuited to the styles. A size nine (or 39) was not the problem. He was finally defeated by the narrow width of these fine boots. Though a pair could have been custom-made for him, he declined. After all, he’s Mr. instant gratification and we did not plan another trip to Pastores in the near future. He thought he had struck gold when he tried on a pair of iguana skin shoes with tough thick soles, only to decline again, this time due to the price, starting at 1,000 Q (about $125 USD). Bartering on these was not in the picture. Its seems its harder to make a pair of shoes out of iguana skin than you might think.
Mrs. Y was tempted by a number of handsome woven leather handbags in stunning ox blood color, but felt her heart sink when the labels said they were made in Mexico. Still, she probably could have negotiated the asking price down to about $30. She had seen the same bag in Toronto stores for about $150. But it didn’t seem right to buy a Mexican bag in a Guatemala boot Mecca. Besides, it was not her turn to have a shopping day and Oville was back with his cab, and shaking his head when we told him in our very very bad and limited Spanish how much we loved our visit to Pastores Guatemala.