CHICHI, Guatemala — Chichicastenengo (Chichi) is quite religiously significant. Here you can see the altars of the largest churches combining traditional Catholic symbolism with Mayan gods and traditions and blending Mayan rituals with Catholicism. In fact, the Mayan Bible (Popol Vuh) was translated into Spanish by Father Franzisco Ximenez secretly, because the Spanish conquerors originally wanted to wipe out all of the Mayan traditions and customs. But the Catholic Church was too smart for that. The priests recognized that to have the Mayans accept Christianity, it had to be on their own terms … in ways familiar to them.
For instance, in ancient times, food was representative of the various Mayan deities. Today indigenous Guatemalans use food as a way to communicate with their ancestors. At the ruins of Iximiche we saw several ceremonies underway with rings of fire and food and shamans praying to Mother Earth and the ancestors of the Mayan people – and then the shamans and crowd crossed themselves and knelt throughout the incantation. In Chichi there are daily processions paying homage to a variety of saints, but much of the processional uses ancient Mayan offerings of food and flowers.
Like with the food, the religion and other cultural institutions blend and evolve to remain relevant.