25 September 2013

Basket cases are prohibited

Guatemalan woman with a large tub balanced on her head, while she reads a menu.

People have been carrying heavy loads on their heads since ancient times. It's very common in developing countries when there is no car nor mule to assist with the shopping. Simply roll-up a towel, shape it into a circle and place it on your head. You're then ready to carry up to fifty-times your own body weight. Or am I thinking of ants?

In East Africa, the women of the Luo tribe carry up to 70% of their body weight on top of their heads. They must have really great posture, though I'd hate to see the state of the discs in their necks.

Woman holding a wicker basket on her head walks past a young girl.

But the mercado ("market") in Antigua, Guatemala must have had some issues with these basket cases. Perhaps people were knocking into things or spilling their loads all over the place. Or perhaps there was a problem with shoplifting - it would be easy to quickly toss stuff into the basket without anyone knowing.

Nevertheless, in the central market of Antigua, you're not allowed to enter with a load on your head (below).

A sign at the market entrance in Antigua, Guatemala. People with baskets on their heads may not enter.

[Below] In the centre of the forbidden: Carrying burdens on heads is not permitted.

A close up of the mercado sign in Anitgua, Guatemala.


  1. I've seen some of these women who carries loads of stuff in their heads, and I find them quite admirable. And yes, like ants, they're the most industrious, hardworking people. And with regards to that poster which disallow those who carries loads in their heads to enter the place.. I think it means, no vendors allowed hehe. Cause what these women carrying are mostly products they sell, but yeah, we could also put it that way. ;)

    1. I didn't know that, Rachel. Thanks for letting me know. :)

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  3. Interesting! I have also seen a lot of people doing that in different countries but never found a place where it wasn’t allowed. I also must confess that I tried it and it is way harder than it seems. I couldn’t walk three steps without the basket falling from my head.

    1. Aww... that would be awesome to try! :)
      It just wasn't allowed inside the closed market. Maybe it was because people would go in and try to sell their own stuff, that was in their baskets. I really should have asked someone.

  4. We have people here in India who cary stuff on their head as well. I guess done since childhood, it must have made necks stronger. Pretty much like people in gyms working on heavy weights... I guess...


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