Custom and Ceremony
I have arranged these photographs of religious life in order of their dates, to give you some idea of the seasonal round of fiestas. However, I have barely scratched the surface. Most days some town celebrates its fair dedicated to its patron saint. Likewise, many towns honor the saint a second occasion one week following his feast day. Many towns too celebrate more than one saint.
There are also religious brotherhoods in many towns dedicated to other saints. Almost every town celebrates the most popular saints, however. For example, virtually every town in Guatemala has a religious brotherhood dedicated to Santa Cruz. Therefore, most Catholic Guatemalans celebrate her feast day, May 3rd. Likewise, many celebrate St. Peter, St. John or the Virgin of the Ascension, the national patron saint. The highlight of any saints feast day, however, is the religious procession in his honor. The devoted carry the saint´s image aboard large litters through the principal streets of the city or town.
Maya religious beliefs also survive within the body of Catholic religious beliefs. Therefore, Maya ceremonies exist side-by-side with Catholicism. We call this syncretism the mixed religion. For example, within the mixed religion, St. Anne represents Ixmucane, the Maya goddess of corn. Similarly, the Maya god Maximón is St. Simon or St. Jude Apostle. However not all of Guatemala celebrates Maximón. For example, many q’eqchi’ speakers have never even heard of Him.
Guatemala also celebrates through dance. There are therefore any number of folkloric dances. First, the most frequently performed dance, the Dance of the Toritos depicts the bull fight. There is also the Dance of the Mexicans. We also have the Dance of the Conquest, Dance of the Monkey, Dance of the Palito Volador, Dance of the Giants, and Dance of the Negritos.
There are also two varieties of the Dance of the Deer. The more traditional receives its inspiration from the Popol Vuh, the book recounting the history and mythology of the k’iche’ people. This version of the Dance of the Deer includes many classes of animals and a pair of hunters, the old man and his wife. I am more familiar with the more violent Dance of the Deer, however, that they perform only in Patzún, Chimaltenango. In this dance, the only characters are the deer themselves and El Tigre (jaguar).