Day 49: Cruising the Lago Atitlán (2)

Santiago Atitlan Travel Blog

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Maximón (photo taken from Wikipedia)

We took another boat to the next village, Santiago Atitlán. The most special thing about this town was that there was no God praising motto in sight. The people here have their own God, and his name is Maximón. Maximón is based on a real saint, San Simón, but Indian mythology has given him a life of his own through the years.

Maximón is worshipped by way of a life-size wooden figure, which is housed in a different location every year. This tradition is very lucrative for local kids, as we hadn’t come off the boat yet and kids already came running towards us shouting "Maximón, Maximón!"
And for the price of a small donation they would bring you to the current (sacred) residence of Maximón. Once arrived you visit Maximón for another small donation and in case you want to take pictures a larger donation is required.

Santiago Atitlan
I told the caretaker that I respected Maximón (and my wallet) by not taking any photos and he seemed surprisingly thankful for that.

We were in luck. A local man had just arrived to pray, so we could see a live prayer to Maximón. Firstly all ‘donations’ were placed in a little dish at the feet of Maximón. The man who was praying chucked in a handful of banknotes of his own as well, and he grabbed a pot filled with burning incense. With that pot he blew smoke at all sacred statues in the little shed and continued to let the smoke flow all around his own body. He then passed the pot on of the other men present and one by one they let the smoke flow around their arms, arm pits and face, while saying a little prayer. Then the smoking pot was pressed in my hands, so I too followed the movements I had seen the others make, while saying a little prayer in Dutch.

the dangerous roads in Guatemala
Then Robbel was next and so the pot went round the whole shed until everybody had been purified.

The man was sitting kneeled in front of Maximón and lit a few candles and started his story, which was partly in Spanish, partly in Maya. He gave Maximón a cigarette, which one of the caretakers placed in Maximón’s mouth and lit. Later on alcohol was also offered. Two caretakers held the statue back while a third poured a few sips of local rum in its mouth.
And the man just continued, praying as if his life depended on it. At one point he took a small list from his pocket with some 20 names written on it. If Maximón would be so kind to take care of all of them as well. To thank him for that another cigarette was lit and more rum served. The man got a wad of cash from his pocket and bought four bottles of rum from the caretaker.

local women doing laundry in the lake
Each of these was opened and one sip from each bottle was poured in Maximón’s mouth. The cynic in me started wondering what the caretakers would do with the rum remaining in the bottles. I can imagine there are worse things to have in your shed than Maximón. Very lucrative and free booze to boot!

After about 20 minutes we had seen enough. The man did not seem to be getting any closer to the end of his prayers, so we left Maximón for what it was and went back to the boat.

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Maximón (photo taken from Wikiped…
Maximón (photo taken from Wikipe…
Santiago Atitlan
Santiago Atitlan
the dangerous roads in Guatemala
the dangerous roads in Guatemala
local women doing laundry in the l…
local women doing laundry in the …
even chicken buses can break down
even chicken buses can break down
chicken bus in Santiago Atitlan
chicken bus in Santiago Atitlan
Santiago Atitlan
Santiago Atitlan
Coffee plantations on the shores o…
Coffee plantations on the shores …
Coffee plantations on the shores o…
Coffee plantations on the shores …
Sis and me on the lake
Sis and me on the lake
taking a nap on the boat back to P…
taking a nap on the boat back to …
Santiago Atitlan
photo by: Biedjee