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Tour of Lago de Atitlan   1 | 2 

12 Nov 2001

LAGO DE ATITLAN, GUATEMALA — Erin wasn't feeling well this morning, so I briskly walked to bakery at north end of town about a mile and a half away to get us some breads and muffins for breakfast. (Hey, it was the least I could do with all the legwork she did for me when I was sick!) We ate leisurely in the room, while watching news of the new American Airlines crash, wondering if we're ever going to want to go back to the US.

After our little breakfast, we met up with Tomas, our guide for the boat tour of the lake. We first headed directly across the lake to San Pedro. Once there, we climbed up and up and up and up, until we were above the whole town, with a great view over the town's rooftops, and with the lake in the distance. We were totally thirsty and gasping for breath, but it was worth the effort, I think! We even got to see a few coffee plants growing, too, so we saw what on-the-vine coffee beans look like.

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San Pedro

We saw the town's church and a little bit of the market selling lots of fresh fish, then re-boarded the boat and headed east to the next town, Santiago de Atitlan. The water was pretty choppy because of the strong winds, so the boat was rocking side-to-side quite a bit. But hey, we're veteran boaters now: no sweat.

Santiago was much larger than the other towns — a sign boasted a population of nearly 29000. It was nearly impossible to imagine how that many people could fit in this little area on the side of a hill, wedged in between three towering volcanos. I strongly suspect that number included livestock.

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Two Religions Meet

We visited a much older church in this town, and saw a couple dozen Mayan women praying before an altar, reciting phrases and singing a tune together. The whole mix of indigenous people and religious culture is actually quite intriguing: in Guatemala, a lot of the outlying areas that are predominately populated by indigenous people combine Christianity with some ancient Mayan rituals. Altars and pedestals, like the ones here, can be found with both Roman Catholic and Mayan carvings side by side. Figures of Jesus, Mary, and the apostles are dressed in local clothes, that are made every year by different women of the village. It seems rather paradoxical, especially since "true" Christianity would never allow anything like this to happen. (That whole first commandment thing.)

Heading back down, we visited a temple to Maximon, a folk god, we think. People bring offerings of candles, incense, cigars, and liquor, and "smoke one up" for him. Apparently, he's the god of fun and debauchery or something like that. Every year, the Mayan women dress him up differently, too. My kinda god.

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Last updated: 08 Jan 2002 08:25:53