Day 40… Panachel
The next day we board a boat to cross the lake and visit the surrounding villages. We watched women weaving old-school at Santa Catarina Palopo (where they are trying new ways to encourage tourism… like NO HAWKERS! clean streets & despite being devout Catholics, sex ecucation & a 2-child limit on families). We also got to see the shrine to Roman Catholic Priest Stanley Rother who died for the little town in the revolution 1970s-1990s. He was instrumental in constructing a shrine in church that got the notice of the Vatican (thankfully John Paul II Oked it) as it is the ONLY shrine to be built BEHIND the priests podium & contain pagan (Inca) gods as well as Christian ones. If a local wants to pray to the old gods – even if during Sunday mass – they can not be stopped.
Then we explored the colourful markets of San Juan. In each village the local Indian life has changed little over the last few hundred years. Each village has its own typical dress and make all the textiles themselves in designs passed down through generations. Indeed Santiago Atitlan is VERY old school. Here I got to witness the rites of a local ‘saint’ called Maximon (pronounced mash-i-mo). Back in the day he correctly predicted the coming of the Spanish & the slaughter, so when they did come they cut off his arms & legs for being a holy man. His statue is likewise limbless & is an underground quasi-christian cult. The statue wears a mask, smokes, drinks rum & is guarded by 2 elders of the Brotherhood that keeps him. It rotates, we got there as the Brotherhood of Saint Anthony had him. They even put him to bed every night. He is also festooned with neck ties – they see the unseen knot in a tie as a symbol of infinity. Also – ALL statues in churches are ACTUALLY clothed, regardless of if it has been CARVED with clothes. interesting stuff!