Maximon- Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

Hello from Guatemala,

I had a great day yesterday.  I went with several friends by boat across the lake from Panajachel to Santiago Atitlan.  It is a village of mostly indigenous Mayans.   We went to two of the homes that take care of the images of various saints that have been adopted by these Mayan groups (cofradias).  The Mayans have also given these images  Mayan religious energy-the lords and Guardian-spirits of the Tzutuhil pantheon.  Presently the image stays with a family and is cared by them and their special cofradia (usually a select group of up to 15 men who volunteer their services as caretakers for a year).  They may have attached to them who is responsible for the rituals performed.

First we went to the one dedicated to the patron saint of Santiago.  We were drawn into this cofradia by the lovely music.  Our guide who was taking us to Maximon said that we could go in for a small fee with a little additional for photos.  (See below)

Next we walked to the most famous one in Santiago – Maximon.  He is known for his healing work and usually there is a shaman present who does healing work.  Maximon, the image,  is offered liquor and a cigarette was lit and put in its mouth while we watched a young man receive a  the healing.  At the end of the healing, all the shamans/ caregivers receive something to drink.   There is a seriousness and amusement in the room where the healings take place.  It was very interesting to watch.

We then went to the large Catholic church there and because it was fiesta honoring a saint day- there were beautiful floral arrangements and lots of people in local dress.  (Actually they are always in local dress-there were just more people around because of the fiesta and it being Sunday.)  The surprising thing for me was that there were several statues of conquistadors that the people were honoring.  I thought that this would be the last thing they would be honoring with my beliefs about how bad the Spanish, including the priests, had been towards the indigenous people in the Americas.  The people honor them for bringing the Catholic religion to Santiago and for horses.  We then went to a Posada de Santiago for a great lunch. Also we managed to do a little shopping.  Great day.  To find out more about Santiago- click here.