God You Are Smokin’!

September and October are hurricane months, so why in the
world would we have a hurricane type storm last night, we wondered. Winds were
so incredible; the furniture was blown off of the balcony of our hotel. It woke
us up multiple times during the night as it set off alarms all over. Sounds
like thrashing rain hitting the window was our clue that it there was water
with the wind, but we were too lazy to get up to check it out. We had the alarm
set for 6:45 as it was.
Today was the boat trip to the different Mayan villages and
it was scheduled to leave at 8:30. Breakfast at the hotel doesn’t start until
7:30, but we were fearful of not having enough time to get to the dock if we
ate here. We went closer to the dock and found a lovely restaurant where we had
two full breakfasts for 6 Euros total. From there, it was a hop, skip, and jump
to the dock where our boat was scheduled.
Eight-thirty came and went, but our boat didn’t. Those
around the dock told us, why are you worried, it is only 8:30? Okay, we run by
a different clock here, like other Hispanic countries and some European ones
that are far from Hispania. When the boat arrived, it was not San Marco as we
had been told to look for, but Yoselin. Close enough I guess, but it did mean
additional Spanish practice to verify the situation. Who should be on our boat,
but the young Canadian couple who are traveling for 8 months. Wonderful couple,
we were glad to share some time with them. There was also an Australian family
that we chatted with also, passing the time until we were ready to depart.
After the storm last night, the lake was choppy with crests
forming as far as the eye could see. The trip to the first village would be an
hour of potentially seasickness motions up and down with water splashing in the
sides of this boat that was on par with a van as opposed to a boat that was
equal to a humvee. Rock, roll, and get wet as the waves come overboard to slap
you in the face for molesting its daily habits. Ron has suggested we sit in the
far back, which meant that we had to climb over four rows of seats before
reaching where we would secure our butts for the joy ride. One time was fine,
but each village meant climbing over these seats to get out and back in again,
while boat thought tied to the dock, still heard the silent tunes that caused
it to rock and roll the day away. As the waves from other boats lapped the
sides of ours, as other guests were getting out, we were all tossed like a
cheap salad around the inner bowl of the boat.
I would have kissed the land at the first village, but
yuk-pooh! It was not only dirt, but dirty dirt. San Marcos, the village was not
much to speak of, with one long, long narrow path leading to the center. Along
the path were Spanish language schools, and oh, please, Reiki healing centers,
a massage center, a spiritual advisor that promised to heal your soul with
tarot cards, and other obvious renegades from English speaking countries that
have descended in this sacred space of Mayan antiquities and have tried to
transform it into Little California, Guatemala. There was pathetically little
to warm the cockles of any one’s heart in this desolate little village. The
star attraction seemed to be a Catholic church, the first invaders of ancient
cultures. We had forty-five minutes to explore this village, but we were all
back in thirty minutes wondering what was next.
Another long ride on the boat brought us to San Juan. Once
off the boat, one look at this village told us the prospects were not good.
Facing the dock was one steep and lengthy hill with lots of little shops on
either side. Even my desire to be consumer of the year did not persuade me to
tackle that hill, so we took a tuk-tuk. If you have ever been to South Africa,
Thailand, or numerous other countries, you will know a tuk-tuk is similar to an
enclosed golf cart.
Our driver gave us a quick tour around the village. Shop
after shop after shop with more massage opportunities, Spanish schools, and
healing of various forms, all á la new age and definitely imported and not
native. When you look at tienda after tienda and see these eye popping colors,
one of two things start to happen. 1.) You stop looking at any realizing
nothing is really going to fit your color schemes at home or 2.) You develop
such sensory overload that you begin to think that your living room really
would look much better if you painted it day-glo pink, turquoise, lemon yellow,
lichen green, and violet. Then all of these things you have subliminally been
pushed into purchasing will fit right. This has made me realize that I am of
two minds. One mind says, “This isn’t so bad. The colors are bright and
cheerful and the workmanship is excellent.” This is when the other mind kicks
shouting “Are you crazy? Have you lost control of your senses? Where on earth
would you display that for more than ten minutes without having to issue
apologies?” I am certain these things have their place, just not in our home.
The next two villages were San Pedro and Santiago Atitlan,
which included more boat acrobatics, sail, sail, wet, wet, climb out of the
boat, and see the village. Same, same, but different. The differences were only
in the size of the settlements and whether or not there were hills to climb.
Well, there was one other difference. We were going to see Maximón or as the
Mayans call him, Rilaj Maam. Regardless of what name he happens to go by, he is
the smoking god. This hybrid god is a cross of Catholic and Mayan, but is
revered throughout the Guatemalan highlands. He is generally housed in the home
of the Mayan cofradia, the brotherhood of Mayan religious. After paying the
tuk-tuk driver 20 Q or 2 Euros, he drove us up hills, down alleys, through the
hills and dale until we reached an unpaved path of rocks and stones leading to
a small building.
On the porch was a band of brothers, presumably Mayan as
they were not speaking Spanish. Within hear shot we could hear talking, but we
were unprepared for the spectacle. In a very small room, there was tiny
Christmas type lights were flashing on and off decorating the left wall with
those boas of Christmas garland. Darkness prevailed in the room regardless of
the spirited lighting, but as we were escorted into the room, there was a man on
his knees on one of those festively decorated rugs or tablecloths that are ubiquitous.
He had this back toward us and was spewing a volume of words in a casual
manner, regardless of his semi-prostrated position. He was facing two humanly men,
but seated between them was the god Rilaj Maam or Maximón. Rilaj was doing what
Rilaj is known for; he was smoking a cigarette. On either side of him, there were
two ashtrays filled with butts with different filters. It was not clear if a
cigarette is given as an offering, but each of the attending men took turns
flicking the ashes into the ashtray, so that god was not disturbed nor was his
attention diverted from the petitioner.
God had a rather wooden expression during this whole thing.
One possible conclusion could be it was because his head was carved from wood. That
explained why he never grimaced when he got smoke in his eyes. God only knows
what his body consisted of, but he was covered with layers of different
colorful blankets and a multitude of neck garments. As I was standing there watching
this scene, I on the right also had lights flashing over my head. I noticed
this rectangular glass box behind me, which my peripheral vision led me to
believe it could be an aquarium. When I took a closer look, there was a mummy
in there. God only knows who it is, was or if it is another petrified wooden
After this, the rest of the day was lackluster to say the
least. God knows…
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