Say Hello To My Little Friend…Maximon.
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Welcome to Guatemala Week – Round 2!
The waste water from his dirty laundry is sold to shopkeepers who believe sprinkling it around their doorways is good for business.
He only consumes the finest rum, never touching anything out of a green glass beer bottle.
Worshipers offer him money, booze and tobacco, in exchange for good health, good crops and just to keep him happy.
He is the most interesting effigy in the world.
Sitting on the cracked church steps in Santiago Atitlan, I did my best to listen to the CoEd directors fill us in on the rich, but tragic history of the village. But honestly, I was having a hard time, I couldn’t stop thinking about our upcoming visit to Maximon.
Talk of meeting the folk saint swirled around our volunteer group since arriving in the village the night before. It is believed that Maximon is a form of the pre-Columbian Maya god Mam with touches of Catholicism influences. While the Mayans revere Maximon as a god, the catholic church denounced him as Judas. He’s said to be a link between Xibalba (the underworld) and Bitol (heart of heaven). In other words, Maximon is more complicated than Shaft, and I’ll just leave it at that.
Because Maximon resides in a different house each year, the best way to find Maximon is to ask one of the children in the village to take you to the house. Making our way through the town and up into a narrow alley walkway bordered by houses on each side, we finally made it into Maximon’s realm. You’ll know you are there when you reach a very dark room filled with mementos and a couple people praying. Outside the room the prices will be listed for visiting Maximon and taking his photo.
The scene wasn’t at all what I had expected. The room was dark, lit mostly by candles, balloons hung from the ceiling and there were several straight faced people in the room sitting around with Maximon. One gentleman wore thick black sunglasses, the kind old blues musicians sport, and Maximon–fresh cigar in mouth–donned a cowboy hat, colorful handkerchiefs, scarves and a pink necktie.
I’ve never experienced anything quite like visiting Maximon before. The atmosphere was festive, but also serious. Maximon demands respect and you can feel that when you enter his space. As I stepped up to take my picture with Maximon, I kind of felt like was going in front of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. When it was my turn, I moved in quickly with minimal eye contact, posed briefly, then shuffled away.
After having my moment with Maximon and getting a few celebrity-style photos, we left and made our way back into town. To this day, every time I think back to that scene in the house, it always brings a smile to my face and warms my heart, making me conclude that Maximon is a better saint than demon.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage from our time in Guatemala with Cooperative For Education. As most of you know we are raising money ($2,000 to be exact) to fund two computer work stations at the Panajxit school in Guatemala. This was one of the schools we volunteered at this summer.
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