Guatemala has a great diversity of populations, which are found in the most remote mountains of the Sierra de los Cuchumatánes. In the dawn of these imposing mountains is the municipality of Jacaltenango, with an average altitude of 1,437 meters above sea level. Located in the western highlands 385 kilometers from Guatemala City, in the department of Huehuetenango. Its name derives from “Xajla”, which in Jacalteko means “place of tartar formed by water”.
A isolated community with limited economy
In Jacaltenango, the majority of the population (97%) identifies as indigenous Maya. As in most rural populations in the country, its main economy is developed in agricultural activities, its activity being the cultivation of organic and conventional coffee.
Jacaltenango is a paradise that has places and activities that become an attraction for tourists. Among these, a visit to the majestic Río Azul or Blue River can be mentioned. The river can be accessed by asphalt road or by sidewalks that lead from the town to the mountains that surround the river.
Festival Virgen de la Candelaria
Another popular tourist activity is the celebration of the patron saint festival of the town of Virgen de la Candelaria, which is celebrated with various cultural and sports activities on February 2nd of each year.
A new tradition of MTB is born at the Patronal Fair
Following the practice of various recreational and sports activities at the employer fair, the idea arose to create a new tradition within the Jacalteka community that practices mountain biking. This type of cycling is not a novelty within the population of this municipality since some Jacaltekos, due to different influences, health issues, desire to venture out and meet personal challenges and goals, have been venturing into this blessed sport.
Jesús Ángel Díaz, one of the pioneers in practicing this form of cycling in Jacaltenango, comments:
“Formally 3 years ago competitive cycling began in Jacaltenango. I was one of the first to venture into this sport, I went to some nearby villages on my bike alone, venturing with my gear. “
History of the Jacaltekos Bikers Team
Therefore, it was to be expected that with the passage of time, more residents of the municipality were starting on Mountain Bike. As a result of the interest generated by going out to explore the mountains and landscapes of the municipality, a new mountain biking team is formed.
“I started motivating other friends to accompany me on my journeys and over time there were already 3 of us who went out to practice this sport. Little by little we have been growing in the cycling community of Jacaltenango, many were asking to join the team “
Founder Jesús Ángel, elaborates more on the history of the name Jacaltekos Bikers:
“In the beginning the team was called MTB Panteras de Jacaltenango, but when more cyclists were integrated, we had a meeting and we all agreed to call the team Jacaltekos Bikers. That happened two years ago, currently we are 24 cyclists who are in the team “
The formation of the idea for a great cycling event in Jacaltenango
After entering the Mountain Bike and participating in competitions in nearby regions and in neighboring Mexico, one of the most active members of the Jacaltekos Bikers team
One of the most active members of the Jacaltekos bikers team, Julio Alejandro López comments on how the idea of holding a formal competition for the Jacaltenango management fair came about:
“We are all active part of races in the nearby places of both Guatemala and Mexico since we are close to the border with Chiapas, all the nearby places organize their career in one way or another, so we decided to make a better structured one.”
La Primera edición del evento “Explorando El Río Azul”
This is how a new tradition is born in Jacaltenango. The first formal Mountain Bike competition “Exploring the Blue River” was held on Sunday, February 2 of this year. The Competition had the participation of 160 national and international cyclists divided into 6 categories. The event was held with the support of various sponsors, which allowed to cover a significant part of the expenses of the event.
“This year’s race was the first edition and was called Exploring the Blue River, in honor of the town’s patronage fair and highlighting the town’s most important tourist attraction.”
A Fully Equipped Event
Con con un inscripción de solo Q125 cada participante inscrito se le entregó un kit que incluía una playera conmemorativa del evento y una medalla finisher. El evento contó con abastecimiento en puntos estratégicos de la ruta, servicio mecanico, carros de arrastre, parqueo y un almuerzo al finalizar la competencia. Se entregaron los premios a los 3 primeros lugares de cada categoría en la forma de trofeos y efectivo.
Es importante mencionar que la carrera se organizó por categorías, dentro de estas se puede hacer mención de la categoría de adultos que fue de 30 kilómetros, en el caso de los niños se hizo un circuito en un campo de fútbol de la localidad.
Mountain Biking as a New Source Of Tourism
With the experiences and testimonies of local cyclists, there is no doubt that Jacaltenango, along with its imposing mountains bathed by the Río Azul, is one of the obligatory destinations to visit to practice Mountain Bike.
Taking into account that tourism is one of the economic pillars of the country, making frequent visits to these small towns will contribute significantly to the social and community development of the population. Of course, without forgetting that in these corners of the country, there are localities whose natural wealth has not yet been fully discovered.
The Mountain Bike has taken quite a boom in rural areas of Guatemala and that despite the lack of knowledge and resources, more and more people practice Mountain Bike. Definitely holding events in these communities will always be a profitable, fun way to invest time and money.
Julio Alejandro López One of the cyclists with the greatest participation in the Mountain Bike of this wonderful municipality comments the following:
“I recommend the visit of our town, since we have very beautiful and demanding circuits, there are diverse climates, ascents, and very technical descents, plains and different excellent terrains for the practice of this sport, hospitable and friendly people, it is also part of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, ideal place for this type of sports “
The rural regions of Guatemala are full of magic and natural beauty, Jacaltenango is one of them and despite its remote location from the capital city, it is worth making a visit and being enchanted by its nature, its people and the perfect conditions for explore and discover in Mountain Bike in another corner of this beautiful country.