Evil saints

Wednesday, October 18th 2000

After two days we had recovered enough to leave the hammocks and get on our way again. Our next point of call was to be Santiago Atitlán, another lakeside town. Our main reason for coming here was to visit the shrine of Maximón. Maximón is a Mayan saint, revered in Santiago but reviled in other lakeside villages. He wears western clothes, drinks whiskey and smokes cigars, and grants prayers for revenge. He is believed to be a fusion of ancient Mayan deities, Judas Iscariot, and Pedro de Alvarado, the conquistador of Guatemala. He is represented in his shrine by an intricately carved wooden effigy, and moves to a different house every year. Finding him was simple - we said 'Maximón?' to a passing child and straight away he set off through the back streets to the shrine of Maximón. We followed, paid the small toll required to see him, and went inside.

Having visited Maximón, we were done with Lago de Atitlán. It was time to head off to our next objective, the city of Quezaltenango. We had an awesome boat ride back across the lake, sitting on the roof of the boat, chilling in the sunshine and surroundings, before once again braving the bus system. After four separate bus journeys and a narrow escape from getting a bus to Guatemala City (the passengers were more honest than the touts, thankfully), we arrived in Quezaltenango, known also by its Mayan name, Xela.

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