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. Volunteer Activities ] Free Activities ] Paid Activities ]  

  Weaving Classes ] [ Visiting Santiago Atitlán ] Visiting Chichicastenango ]  

   
From San Pedro la Laguna it is a half hour boat ride to Santiago Atitlan, the largest town on the lake. It would be a good idea to talk up at the school the idea of a group visit to Santiago, because some of the more interesting things, most notably Maximón, can be hard to find. Swarms of tourists visit Santiago Atitlán daily, and the streets leading up to the center of town are lined with shops selling weavings, carvings and paintings. By far the most striking building in town is the Catholic church with its bell tower. Parts of the structure probably date back to 1571, about two hundred years before the United States became a nation. The Catholic church on Lake Atitlán started out denying the indigenous population their religion and customs, however the twentieth century found the same church defending the indigenous population from the military of the Guatemala government. The church contains three plaques giving an overview of this history. The words on these plaques are reproduced here almost in their entirety.
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"The Mayan Tz’utuhil may have migrated from Mexico about 900 years before Christ and occupied the present site of Atitlán. Atitlán signifies 'place of many waters' or 'hill surrounded by water'.
"The Mayan Tz’utuhil dominated the Lake Atitlán area and the nearby towns of San Lucas Toliman and Patulul. There ceremonial worship center was Chutinamit [mouth/entrance of the village] located on the north side of the entrance to Santiago Bay. Their commercial and military domination extended at various times from Quetzaltenango to the Pacific Coast. The Tz’utuhil did not form alliances with other Mayan Peoples and were defeated by a combination of Spanish, indigenous Mexican and Mayan Cakchiquel forces in 1524.
"The Franciscan Friars arrived in the Lake Atitlán area in 1538. The first church and Franciscan monastery were probably built around 1541 in Chutinamit. The Franciscan Friars ‘congregated’ (gathered) the dispersed population in what is now Santiago Atitlán for religious instruction in 1547. Construction of the present building was begun in 1571 and was completed in 1582. The structure has suffered the devastating effects of earthquakes and has been restored and reconstructed various times.
The Martyrs of Santiago Atitlán

"From mid 1980 until late 1990 the people of Santiago suffered from the violence causes by the thirty year civil war waged in Guatemala from 1966 to 1998. Santiago Atitlán suffered from a massacre on January 6, 1980. Ten men from the village were killed on that day by Guatemalan military forces at Chacaya about three miles from Santiago Atitlán. The men were working their fields when the surprise attack occurred.

 

"Death threats, woundings, disappearances, assassinations became common place in Santiago Atitlán at this time. This Catholic church served as a refuge for many families who came here each night to sleep in the safety the church offered.
"On July 28, 1981 Father Stanley "Apla’s" Rother, Catholic pastor of the church was assassinated in the parish rectory adjacent to this church. The people of Santiago Atitlán asked that his head and blood remain in the village. [Editor’s note: Father Stanley Rother was a priest from Oklahoma.] They are buried in the martyr’s monument in the south west arch of the church. The violence in Santiago continued through 1990 claiming a deacon and many other church members. 
"On December 2, 1990 thirteen people were killed in front of the local army camp in canton Panabaj about one mile from Santiago. They went to the local military camp to protest an attempted kidnapping earlier in the day. The people of Santiago Atitlán organized peaceful protests after this massacre and the army left Santiago before the end of December 1990."
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Worship of the ancient Mayan deity Maximon has at times caused much trouble between the church and the indigenous population. He smokes and drinks and has the reputation as a trickster, and clearly could not be considered a holy figure by the Catholic Church. His  exclusion from the church building during Semana Santa [Holy Week] celebrations upsets some of the indigenous population. The home where he resides changes, but a young Santiago boy should be able to tell you where he currently is.
   
. Volunteer Activities ] Free Activities ] Paid Activities ]  

  Weaving Classes ] [ Visiting Santiago Atitlán ] Visiting Chichicastenango ]  


For questions and answers in English call me in San Francisco, California at (415) 282-7654 (I will be away from December 25 to January .) or email me at .

Mailing address:
Casa Rosario Spanish School
Canton Sanjay
San Pedro la Laguna
Depto. Sololá
Guatemala, C.A.

All paintings and photographs Copyright © 1988–2013 Arte Maya Tz'utuhil
Todas pinturas y fotografías son Derechos Reservados
© 1988–2013 Arte Maya Tz'utuhil

All paintings are copyrighted by Arte Maya Tz'utuhil for the artist. The reproduction rights are reserved and administered by Arte Maya Tz'utuhil for the artist. Reproduction for commercial reasons without prior written consent is strictly prohibited.