On The Road: Maximón claimed his place - ahead of the Virgin Mary
Through the fug of spray, wisps of copal incense and blockade of human-sized candles, the band at the back of the church crept into life with the Pink Panther theme tune. I grinned widely. The locals clearly had a sense of humour on this, the most solemn day in the Catholic calendar.
I was in Santiago Apóstol church, Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, on Good Friday and what was to happen next seemed to be an extraordinary turn of events.
Santiago lies on the shores of Lake Atitlán, a crater lake formed by the mega eruption of a super volcano. The Tz'utujil Maya, who live in Santiago, believe the world was delivered from its primordial waters. Every year, a man dressed in a poncho of silk scarves, a cowboy hat and boots, and with a cigar perched on his lips, moves house. Maximó*is a Janus-faced wooden idol; he is petitioned for success but possesses the powers to inflict ill fortune.
While Christians mourned the death of Christ at noon on Good Friday, Maximó*was prepared in a side chapel on the church's plaza for another year of office.
The rigmarole of religious ritual took some time. The statue of the crucified Christ was placed in a coffin amid a fumble of soft furnishings – a green cushion embellished with gold was carefully placed in the glass coffin but then a blanket, imprinted with a tiger image, was quickly stuffed in followed by a flutter of coloured paper shreds.
The flashing bulbs were turned off and the lid snapped down. Christ was processed out of the church and on to a carpet of flowers and dyed wood shavings. As his coffin passed Maximón's chapel, Maximón, dressed in an embarrassment of scarves, was hoisted up by a cavalcade of worshippers and forcibly pushed into line behind the dead Christ, but in front of statues of Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary. Maximó*may be the beloved idol of the townsfolk but his lack of chivalry was shocking.
Footprint's Central America & Mexico is available now (£16.99)
- 2 Overheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...