Today's post comes to us from Marina K. Villatoro of Travel Experta. Guatemala has just risen greatly in my estimation. Drunken Mayan gods? Mystical shamans? Volcanoes and lakes? Sign me up! :D
Ahhhh! Lake Atitlan Guatemala, considered one of the top ten most beautiful lakes in the world, is also home to the Mayans of Guatemala, too many on-the-run expats, and religious followers of all sorts.
When you arrive to this side of the Guatemalan world you are instantly floored with the beauty of the volcanic crater surrounded by 3 volcanoes. Within seconds you are hounded by boat captains, small Maya kids, and dogs. The thing to do when you are staying here is to hop on a boat and visit the small indigenous villages that surround the lake.
The most popular stop is Santiago, also the largest town with the highest Mayan population. This little lakeside town is where you can find the oldest Catholic church in Guatemala and the infamous and notorious yet worshiped Moximon, their Mayan God!
Although surrounded by mountains, Santiago, is not too far – relatively speaking – from another gorgeous Central American country: Costa Rica. Vacation packages to Costa Rica AND Guatemala give you the best of both worlds. Though the indigenous people of Costa Rica weren't Mayan themselves, they did trade with Mayan people so may have heard of Moximon. But back to our story…
Without even getting our feet on the pier as we pulled in, we were once again attacked – this time by mid-aged to older men offering to take us to see the church and Moximon. Somehow we ended up with a little Mayan man traditionally dressed and aging anywhere from 50 to 80 years old. There is absolutely no way of telling.
Now the secret here is that you really don't need a guide to see most things, so the fact that none of them speak any English isn't at all a problem. The reason for the guide is to find this mystical Mayan God. He is moved yearly from one house to another, normally to one of the many Shaman that live here.
We bypassed the Catholic church and hopped on a local pick up truck where we were easily one head taller than everyone on it, including my 6 year old son!
Then the tour guide gestured to the driver to stop and we got off and headed off to some dirt road. We stopped at a shack with around 10 women sitting uncomfortably on the dirt and some rocks waiting for who-knows-what. They looked like they were there since early morning and won't be leaving until late night.
Inside it was a whole other story! In a tiny room with dirt floors sit 3 colorful wooden dolls. The center one is Moximon. He is decked out in indigenous clothes, with a cigar in his mouth and way too many alcohol bottles at his feet.
His minions, or the little men surrounding him, immediately rush up to you and request money – $1 to enter and $1 for each photo. Until you whip out the money they won't even bother talking to you. Even though we paid instantly, I wasn't sure how much talking I wanted them to do since they seemed to have drunk most of the alcohol bottles at Moximon's feet, and their breath alone could have got me drunk. But at least they were a friendly bunch!
We weren't the only tourists viewing the chaos. There must have been at least 10 others sitting around waiting for photos to be taken. But the biggest surprise came to us when we spotted a Shaman, or at least that's what the drunk men were referring to him as, doing a ceremony on an indigenous lady.
After the ceremony was over, they all opened up cans of coke lifted them up in the air, did a quick prayer, and drank.
Curiosity got the better of me and I needed to know what is up with the Coke? It turns out, the fizz from Coca Cola is godly and they do it as an offering.
So what did I learn on this chaotic, incredible religious adventure?
1. Mayan Gods love to drink and smoke
2. Coca Cola did a great job with their marketing department. Even the Maya believe it's holy!
3. It's all about a good time!
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