Zunil, Guatemala – Well cooked

We leave a farewell letter at the church’s door, and then we return to Huehuetenango. In the supermarket situated in a modern mall we realize that everything is available, but slightly more expensive than in Mexico. After just 80 km we leave the Pan Americana again in San Cristóbal Totonicapán to get to San Andres Xequl. The inconspicuous village owns Guatemala’s most colourful church front what can only be seen when standing on the plaza. There are no signs at all. At the entrance to the village we meet Kim from the United States who is volunteering in developing eco-tourism. She offers to show us the village. The 16th century church with the gaudy yellow background is decorated with three-dimensional angel figures, vine branches and other coloured ornamentations that origin in Mayan culture. The chapel up on the hill is painted as well and offers a good view over the town.

Kim brings us to Maximón whom we perhaps didn’t find on our own. He is a kind of saint who doesn’t have the best character and has to be placated with offerings. Maximón is a life-size mannequin that changes its host every year and is offered to give up a separate room. Most people contribute cigars or schnapps. In case he grants the petitioner’s prayers, and the keenest wish for a trip to the USA to earn money for some years there comes true, the saint receives a gift: a hat, sunglasses, a jeans, or cowboy boots. And so Maximón (or San Simon) looks a little bit like an American gangster from the 60s. In San Andres Xequl there are two of them. At night, both are put to bed, and they spend the day sitting in armchairs. As a tourist we might visit the bay lad for 5 Quetzal per person and take photos as well. There are some other Maximóns in towns close by, but there they are more commercialized and photos are charged separately. Here we may even attend a ceremony in a side room where cigars, lemon, fragrant tree bark and candles are burnt. Where is the border between Catholicism and original Maya religion? There is none. Two religions melted to perfect syncretism.

On a side road we reach Cantel where 17 glassblowers founded the coop COPAVIC years ago. The only use glass for recycling and export to many countries. Their glasses are cheapest here and make nice souvenirs. It’s only a few kilometres to Zunil where a tiny road leads to Fuentes Georginas. The slopes are covered with steaming vegetable fields, since their fruits are irrigated with warm water. High in the mountains at 2400 m elevation the well-known hot springs are situated at the side of the volcano Zunil. The entrance fee is 50 GTQ pp and 10 per vehicle, and if we pay for two days we might stay overnight. The hot water directly rises from the “inactive” volcano and pours into two pools made from natural stones that contain water with little more than body temperature. A third pool is so hot that the entry can be managed only with plucky speed. Even then we can only stay for minutes, otherwise the circulation would collapse. Soon we are red as a lobster and well done. Afterwards we don’t mind too much that the shower water is ice cold. I mean ICE cold. But who wants to smell like sulphur?

Fuentes Georginas, N 14°45’01,3’’ W 91°28’48,5’’

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