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Maximón: The Guatemalan Multifaceted God

Scarlet Adele Anglesey

Meet Maximón, the quirky cultural icon smoking cigarettes and holding Guatemala together. This Mayan deity isn't your average saint - he heals sorrows, challenges believers, and even channels a homicidal conquistador. Dive into Maximón's complex world, from local traditions to tourist fascination, and see why he's the heart of Lake Atitlán's cultural identity.

Whether a local or a tourist residing in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, one would know the same Maximón. Maximón is the utmost of all cultural identities in all 11 towns of the Lake Atitlán highlands, especially the most ancient village, Santiago, famous for a 30-year civil war and its cofradias. Thousands visit him in the cofradias, where people will find Maximón as a wooden statue or human-like replica, draped in traditional Myan clothing and smoking his iconic cigarettes. In these various rooms, one can experience Maximón and the Maximón faith. From either being a local taught this faith or a tourist researching it before a trip, many believe that Maximón heals others' sorrows or may respond to one's concerns. As a Lifegate article states, "...He [Maximón.] makes people's dreams come true. He challenges believers. He heals. He helps overcome obstacles. He stands against injustice." 


Although his character's evil may contradict the religious saint that he often portrays, Maximón maintains a symbol of imperfectionism in the Mayan world. 

For example, as in The Daily Search article, many other followers of the Maximón faith follow two different characters: the 'antagonist' and 'protagonist,' believing he was a reincarnated elder to protect his people and the infamous homicidal conquistador Pedro de Alvarado.  

Every year, Maximón changes his location to a new one, following the belief of his ever-changing names (Wikipedia: San Simon, Ri Laj Mam, Don Ximon) and faces. People from all around come to Santiago, Lake Atitlán, to witness Maximón. in his splendor, drinking Quetzalteca and chain-smoking. At the same time, thousands of tourists and locals leave him money, making him one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs religious figures in the Mayan world today.​

Although many people view Maximón as a tourist attraction in Santiago Lake Atitlán, he is not - he continues to represent Catholicism and the Mayan world. He maintains a symbol of tradition, holding Guatemala's culture and heritage together for the local Guatemalan community and beyond. 

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