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Meeting Maximon – Day 7

Posted by | Evil Kristos | January 25, 2009 | No Comments

After I had made up my mind to leave Lake Atitlan and move on I wanted to do at least one more thing. Santiago Atitlan is one of the places to visit at Lake Atitlan and so I did. From what I heard there are some 35 evangelical temples in the village; I however was much more interested in the Mayan idol Maximon.

Getting to Santiago is easy enough. The best way is a the public boat. These boats go frequently and cost something like 3.50 US. Santiago itself was a bit of surprise. I expected a few houses with plenty of churches and worshippers. The town – and this is what it is – is a rather busy place and not particularly pretty. When it comes to looks I’d say San Pedro takes the price.

Since I was in Santiago anyways I wanted to have a look around. Not as easy as I thought. Normally you only get harrassed by some sales people selling junk. In Santigo I met Francisco. He was an official tour guide and he just wouldn’t give up. He first suggested a special price for me; 160 Quetzal. That’s over 20 Dollars so I burst out laughing. We finally settled on half the price in return he wanted to show me all the really cool places.

Included in this tour was the main church which was peculiar but nice. The church had very little decoration as in paintings or anything. Instead they had puppets lined up against the wall that probably represented some holy people. Attached to the church are a little really chilled out courtyard and on the other side some sort of convent.

There is a meditation room where some Padre was hit by something while praying. I didn’t quite get Franciscos explanations. His English was atrocious. Anyways, it was a nice little chamber and if I was into that kind of stuff I would have been impressed.

Next we went to see the Maximon and this is were it got really cool. The Maximon basically is a little idol that looks like an Indian chieftain. It’s dressed up with local clothes, a hat and bandana and there are a few old man who talk to him in Mayan (I guess) and make sure he got everything he needs. Their main task seems to be making sure that Maximon has a burning fag in his mouth. Once one cigarette is finished they immediately light a new one. Man this little god talked to me. I rolled him one of mine and I just hope it goes down well. I may need his protection later on.

Other than that there is little to see. There are the usual market stand and people harassing you which at some stage got quite annoying. They just don’t take no for an answer and some of the women would follow you on to the boat.

I’m not so sure about this whole Santiago business. The men wear funny trousers which are typical for that particular place. They are knee length and striped. They look rather comfortable so I can see how this became a tradition with the men. It’s much better than the long black trousers you see in other places.

What else could i say about the place? It’s interesting to see. I actually watched a basketball match which was commented like as if it was a world cup final. On the pitch were little girls playing so I don’t know what this was about. A huge crowd had gathered though. May be they just watched the little girls.

As I said, in a way I liked Santiago but it was certainly not what I expected. They do a very good marketing. All the tourists (including me) feel obliged to go there. There is just no really good reason why. The view for example is not particularly good. Mt. San Pedro was covered in clouds so may be it looks nicer on a clear day. The view to the lake is obstructed by a peninsula so I wouldn’t expect too much. The best view you get on the western shore of the lake and of course the north.

The main reason to go therefore is Maximon and meeting him was a pleasure and a privilege. Time to move on. Quetzaltenango here I come.

Basketball match in Santiago de Atitlan

Basketball match in Santiago de Atitlan


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