We visited beautiful Panajachel which is located in the southwestern Guatemalan Highlands. The drive there alone, was incredible. We wound around mountain roads with cliffs and views on each side. I often couldn’t tell if we were heading up or down as we did a lot of both. We stayed for two nights at the Hotel Dos Mundos , a beautiful paradise a block from Lake Atitlan and right off the main market road. Pana is the gateway to many Maya’ villages including Santiago Atitlan, which we boated across the lake to visit. Santiago is situated between two volcanoes (San Pedro & Toliman). The majority of the residents are indigenous Mayans. Wikipedia – The Cofradías (religious brotherhoods), manage a parallel power and are the guardians of the modern and ancient religious practices, most notably the cult of Maximón to whom they offer liquor and tobacco in exchange of favours. We visited Maximon and watched with our own eyes, this ritual. It was a little unnerving at first, as we followed Manuel through a narrow sketchy alley into a back area behind the buildings. Random chickens were running around and a large dirty blanket covering a doorway. We were ushered in behind the blanket, to a very small room where with about 12 men on their knees, were chanting (or speaking spanish to a tiny statue). It was dark, noisy and to my left was a glass coffin with a body inside. I wasn’t sure if it was real at first and my heart was racing. It all happened so fast, I really couldn’t put together where I was or WHYYYY. It felt as though we were invading someones private scene, in their dirt floor living room. I’ve never before felt claustrophobic…but it kicked in as soon as I was pushed to the corner of the room. The body was not real, but a stuffed form and what looked like a plastic face. The outside of the coffin was covered in plastic colourful light up flowers that were blinking. In front of the men on their knees, was a short statue of a person. It had many mens ties wrapped around it’s neck, a cigarette in it’s mouth and money stuffed in pockets. The men were drinking Gallo (Cerveza), in honour of this statue (who I think might be the same dude in the coffin). It was all a little overwhelming but interesting at the same time. I lasted maybe 5 minutes and had to get out to the air. I would have liked to go back in and ask questions…but bad timing and all… and I knew we certainly didn’t have the time.
I found a link about Maximon -http://www.santiagoatitlan.com/Religion/Maximon/maximon.html – Crazy interesting stuff!! AND I WAS RIGHT THERE!!!
We ended the visit and tour of Santiago with more market shopping, a drink by the water and a boat ride back to Pana.