Guatemala

Between here and the volcano, in the middle of Lake Atitlan, there is a submerged Maya ruin the size of a small city.

One of the many docking areas in Lake Atitlan.

Canoes

Hand-made conoes lining the bank at Lake Atitlan.

Laundry day at Lake Atitlan—probably every day for many women.

The reeds used to make mats & fans

The tule reeds that are plentiful along the shores of Lake Atitlan have many purposes, perhaps the most common being woven mats, fans and baskets.

Farm With Terraces

This farmer terraced his hill in order to more efficiently water his crops. Also, it’s easier to access the beds. It’s no coincidence that the land rises like a pyramid and has terraces with a house on top. Ancient Maya temples were god-houses that sat atop stone mountains.

Women cutting & sorting, harvesting onions

These women are cutting and sorting onions. The tall green plants are property markers.

 

The church at Panajachel, Guatemala.

Dyes used by the ancient Maya were derived from plant, seashell and mineral sources. The colors were mainly red, yellow, purple and blue. They mixed them together to make other hues,. The colors seen today are much richer because the dyes are synthetic and imported.

 

With few exceptions, Maya women weave and sell the results. By the time a girl is five or six, she is weaving on a backstrap loom. She receives no direct instruction, learning solely by watching their mothers and grandmothers. Nearly every pattern in a woven fabric has a meaning. Not everyone can articulate it, but scholars trace some of the designs to ancient icons and symbols that relate to ancient Maya cosmology.

The coiled turban headwrap, a likely derivative of ancient serpent headdresses, identifies the wearer as a member of a particular community.

A woman sitting in the typical (and ancient) position for weaving on a backstrap loom. Notice the leather strap around her waist The woman next to her is also weaving, and you can see the front part of the loom. Notice also the tail of the kitty (Bottom right).

These are the colors the camera captured. No photoshop adjustments.

Woman Carrying Bundle On Her Head

Walking along, whenever I asked anyone if I could take their picture they were happy to accommodate—for a quetzal, about the equivalent of a dollar.

An efficient and low cost way to climb the side of a wall.

My guide said: “They train us at a very young age.” I remarked, “The women carry firewood?” She replied, “We do everything!”

 

My guide—a Maya woman with a PhD in anthropology from Harvard University—had me wait at the bottom of the steps while she went to see who lived here. The compound turned out to be the home of a shaman. Shown here are his wife, sister and children. She spoke with them in Mayan, and the shaman allowed me to take photographs at one quetzal each.

This is something tourists never get to see. Here, the  shaman is hanging candles on pegs in his workshop. He’d just finished with a “client.” Behind him on the right are his “saints,”—named  statues that contain some of their spirit-essence. Candles are kept burning in front of them. He wears the traditional dress of his community. His altar is at the bottom right.

 

The shaman’s altar consists of beans, crystals, special stones, flowers, candles, figurines and other objects that contain spirit power. Everything has its rightful place to honor the gods of the four sacred directions. Even the colors are associated with these directions.

 

These are the beans, crystals and stones the shaman uses to perform a “layout” as part of his divination process—to help clients who come to him with an ailment, relationship problem or question.

The bustling marketplace at Santiago Atitlan. Bargaining is the order of the day.

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