Wanna see Maximon?

Santiago, Lago de Atitlan, West Guatemala

“Wanna see Maximon?” chanted all the young touts running towards me as I barely stepped out of the ferry at Santiago, Lake Atitlan.

This deity of the Mayans has become such a huge tourist attraction that every local boy and man you meet would offer to bring you to the current abode that houses Maximon. A rather worldy street punk of no more than 10 years old managed to get my business after I bargain him down to Q$5 (quetzal) to bring me to the current property. Every year, the statue of this cross between a mayan, gringo, catholic god chooses a family house to reside in.

After a short walk to its current residence, once again I was asked Q$10 for entrance to see this rather strange looking effigy. In the same room as Maximon, there was an effgy of a dead jesus after he was crucifed, bleeding limbs and all. It seemed quite strange but not usual to mix cathoism figures with mayan deities.

There were chants going on in this tiny quarter, two men were kneeled down giving offerings to the Deity. One had a white veil drapped over him, had I not given him a second glance, I would have thought it was a lady quietly chanting away. The other one had a mobile phone stuck to his ear, constantly spitting in front of the effigy while having his phone conversation and in between that, taking huge puffs from his big fat cigar before spitting again. Obviously a multi-tasker of sorts, he might conducting some ritual but you would think that one who does not have good hygiene. The floor in front of him was covered in huge wet puddles of his thick spit. (You can probably make out some puddle at the far left bottom corner of the photo)

Took out my camera and snapped this only shot in the room before I was once again asked for more money. To take a photo of Maximon I would have to offer him more dinero pointed out by one of rather sharp faced attendant, I declined and left after lingering a little bit more looking at rest of the catholic effigies.

Paper cutting decorations adorned the house which Maximon currently resides to announce its presence.

Here’s the whole story of Maximon by Wikipedia

Maximón is a deity worshipped in various forms by Maya people of several towns in the highlands of Western Guatemala. The Spanish named him as Maximon and the Mayans know him as Railaj Maam.

The origins of his cult are not very well understood by outsiders to the different Mayan religions, but Maximón is believed to be a form of the pre-Colombian Maya god Mam, blended with influences from Catholicism. Maximón may also be called San Simón. Originally, he was believed to be a Catholic priest who had looked after aboriginals during early 1600s.

Where Maximón is venerated, he is represented by an effigy which resides in a different house each year, being moved in a procession during Holy Week. During the rest of the year, devotees visit Maximón in his chosen residence, where his shrine is usually attended by two people from the representing Cofradia who keep the shrine in order and pass offerings from visitors to the effigy. Worshippers offer money, spirits and cigars or cigarettes to gain his favour in exchange for good health, good crops, and marriage counseling, amongst other favours. The effigy invariably has a lit cigarette or cigar in its mouth, and in some places, it will have a hole in its mouth to allow the attendants to give it spirits to drink.

Maximón is generally dressed in European 18th century style, although with many local variations. In Santiago Atitlán he is adorned with many colourful garlands, while in Zunil (where he is known as San Simón) he has a much more intimidating style, with his face obscured by dark sunglasses and a bandana.

The worship of Maximón treats him not so much as a benevolent deity as a bit of a bully whom it’s wise to keep on the right side of. He is also known to be a link between Xibalbá The Underworld and Bitol Corazón del Cielo. His expensive tastes in alcohol and cigarettes indicate that he is a very human character, very different from the ascetic ideals of Christian sainthood. Devotees believe that prayers for revenge, or success at the expense of others, are likely to be granted by Maximón.

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