One of the reasons that makes Xela a frequented place by tourist is its almost perfect location. While it is really easy to get around in this city, it is also remarkably close to many other towns with interesting attractions to see.
Zunil is surely one of them. Taking a chicken bus, which costs only 5 quetzales, in front of Shell gas station on 9th Avenue will take you to Zunil in about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once you get there, it won’t take too long to recognize a house with a smoke, rising from its rooftop.
Hidden among some tiny streets, this house hosts Maximón, also known as San Simón only in Zunil, a life-sized mannequin representing a Maya god. There are different opinions about his origins. According to one belief, he was a Catholic priest in 17th century. It is also thought that Maximón is the incarnation of the ancient Mayan god of sexuality.
“The legend has it that one day while the village men were off working in the fields, Maximón slept with all of their wives. When they returned, they became so enraged they cut off his arms and legs (this is why most effigies of Maximón are short, often without arms). Somehow he became a god following this, perhaps he was possessed by the god prior. Later, with the introduction of Christianity, Maximón’s effigy replaced one of Judas Iscariot in Christian Holy Week carnival rituals”. (www. wikipedia.com)
Each year, in the course of Semana Santa(Holy Week), he is moved to another house with a procession. During rest of the year, his worshippers offer him money, spirits and cigars or cigarettes to gain his favour in exchange for good health, good crops, and marriage counseling.
With an admission charge of 5 quetzales and a further charge for taking photos(10 quetzales per photo), you can visit Maxímon in Zunil, located in western highlands of Guatemala. As a reminding, this is a religious place, so be careful before you attempt to snap a few photos.
Santiago from Chichicastenango, who lives in Zunil, was responsable to keep the fire up on the rooftop of the house. “Es un sacrificio para Maximón”, he said. (It is a sacrifice for Maximón). He was smoking a cigar when I got there. He said it is the same cigar that Maximón smokes and he smokes it to ask for his blessings.