March 9, 2009
The next morning we took a boat ride to another lake village, San Juan. We went to an art gallery owned by a Mayan woman, Angelina, and her husband. Our guide, who admires their work, told us that some critics describe their art as unsophisticated, but we disagreed with these critics for we loved their vibrant unique interpretations. We spent time with this lovely couple and bought one of Angelina’s paintings. Later when we returned to Antigua, we entered a gift shop selling some of her paintings. They were priced at almost three times as much. We felt good that we had made our purchase directly from Angelina, thus eliminating the middle-person.
Also on San Juan there was a women’s co-op for producing medicines from their herb garden. We toured this garden and learned what herbs are used to cure various physical problems. From there, we toured another co-op that makes natural dyes for the scarves, tablecloths, napkins, etc. they weave. The scarves were so beautiful that we purchased six to bring back to friends and family.
We ate lunch in the lake village of San Pedro before returning to Santiago Atitlan. The visit to Santiago Atitlan was profound. Our guide taught us so much about the Mayan faith and the "Council Book" or "Book of the Community", the Popol Vuh. Before going to the Catholic Church in the main square, he took us four blocks from the church to a small house where a two thousand year old statue of Maximon (pronounced Mashimon) is kept. He is guarded around the clock by several members of the designated “brotherhood” of local Mayans. In the same room with this Mayan deity is a glass coffin with the crucified Christ. While we were in this guarded room, the men encouraged us to have our photo taken with Maximon. We did so, being very careful to stand at a respectful distance. Well, before Art took the photo, the men moved me and Kristen as close to Maximon as the chairs permitted to add to the “intimacy” of our experience. We were told that as part of the Good Friday ritual and before the Catholic procession, there is a procession to take Maximon to a small blue domed building in the square next to the church.
After this new experience, we entered the church and saw where Fr. Stan Rother’s heart is buried and the tribute given to him. Fr. Rother was a priest from Oklahoma who gave his life in service to the people of Santiago Atitlan. As I walked to the front of the church, I began to hear weeping and loud sobs. I entered Father Rother’s chapel and discovered a group of women and a few young men on their knees crying and pleading before the tabernacle. I could not, of course, understand the Tzutuhil language, yet I felt I could somehow understand their pleas and sorrows. Part of me wanted to kneel with them, but I feared I would be intrusive.