Friday, February 21, 2014

Visit to San Andres - Part I

Thursday, February 20, 2014 San Andres
From Viewpoint in Xecul.  Remnants of adobe
buildings in foreground
After some good rest last night, most of my aches and pains from crashing to the cement Tuesday night were gone.  At 2:15p.m. a small group of us headed with Amaro (one of the teachers) to catch a chicken bus to San Andres.  San Andres is in the Department of Totonicapán.  (There is another San Andres in a different department). Much to my surprise, we disembarked at a busy crossroads only to get into the back of a pickup truck.  San Andres is a small town and the best mode of transport to it is by pick up truck.  The truck was equipped with handle bars, but with about 20 people in and on the truck, it was interesting.  Solament cinco minutos (Only five minutes)we were told.  The truck scraped over every speed bump. (turmolo)

The road into San Andres was peppered with structures - homes, businesses, out buildings - in various stages of repair, construction, or dilapidation.  I noted many adobe buildings with tile roofs.  Once in San Andres we walked - straight uphill. We passed the celebrated Catholic church in San Andres in order to get to our muy alta  (really high) destination.  I huffed.  I puffed.  I puffed on my abuterol.  I sat.  Eventually, I succeeded.  The final 50 yards was almost vertical, but all of us made it.  

At the "top" (there was a lot more mountain behind us) there was a miniature version of the church, a view point and a place with three crosses.  There were also smoldering oven-like things in front of them.  Some of what I learned:
Dyed fabric can be seen in this image

*San Andres was named by the Spanish invaders around 1560  The Mayan name is Xecul which in the local K'iche language means “below hills." (follow link for more on K'iche culture) Spanish forced the K'iche into Christianity and servitude.  The colonial churches throughout Guatemala are painted white except for this one.  My understanding is the church is centuries old and at some point, the K'iche painted the front and the statuary in the bright colors of the Mayan cosmovision. They were able to meld their native beliefs with the Catholic traditions.  There are four important colors for the Mayan peoples:  red, yellow, white, and black.  Red relates to life and blood, green connects with creation, black upholds Mother Earth, and blue for the sky and water. (More on this in the next post.)
Viewpoint in Xecul

*Of the many characters on the church, are two jaguars.  These are symbols not found on other churches as they relate to the Mayan traditions.  Jaguars are among the spirit animals or naguals in their tradition.  A person's nagual is not chosen-rather the nagual reveals itself.  I am not clear on the specific relationship of the Jaguars to this particular place (not picking up on everything in Spanish), but it is a very visible representation of the Mayan culture in spite of invasion.

Catholic church in San Andres/Xecul
*Every year there is a passion procession from the church to the place with the three crosses - Calvary.  The location is also used for K'iche traditions.  They ask Mother Earth every March for permission to plant and ask for blessing.  In December (the same as human gestation) they give thanks for what they have harvested.  As with Native groups in North American, the Mayan peoples have an intimate connection to the natural world.

*From the outlook we could see fabric hanging over the flat roofs and in the courtyards of several houses.  Each house seemed to have a different color.  Amaro told us that different family dye different colors.  Many, many of the men in this town are in working in the United States.  While they send money to their families, there are women and children fending for themselves.  Dying cloth for tradition use (and tourist consumption) helps to keep families afloat.  

There is much more so I will have a part II installment.  
Sweet Mother Earth and Father Sky, you have not given us all of creation but have asked that we respectfully share your sacred space.  Forgive us when we rip you apart and pollute you.  Help us to see that harmony with all beings is what you wish for us.  Amen

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