“125 years of service!” proclaims the hand-painted sign outside the Quetzeltenango mainstay of Baños Balcárcel, a century old bathhouse that has been providing the simple pleasure of a warm bath for over a century.
While the concept of taking the whole family out for a hot bath at a public bathing establishment might seem like an odd notion to the average Westerner, the fact that the Baños Balcárcel has been going strong and pumping out millions of gallons of steaming hot bath water in the heart of Xela for the the past 125 years belies the fact that a warm bath, and indeed hot water itself, is still a relative luxury for the Maya of the Guatemalan highlands. Sundays at the Baños Balcárcel will see the place crawling with men, women, and children in traditional dress, having poured in from the highlands or the outskirts of Xela for the pleasures of a hot bath. A nominal fee will net you a half-hour’s worth of alone time with a well-used tiled tub and some scalding hot water piped in from a dumptruck-sized, wood-fired boiler out back. Indeed, once you’ve spent enough time under a central american electric shower head, the idea of forking over a few Quetzales to splash around in some truly hot water, even in a grimy old bathtub, does not seem like such a strange concept.
Know Before You Go
Located at the corner of Avenida Jesus Castillo and 2a Calle.