San Andres Itzapa, Guatemala, Oct 28 (EFE).- Dozens of Guatemalans who believe in the folk saint and Mayan deity known as St. Simon or Maximon on Thursday danced to mariachi rhythms at the church or temple built in his honor in the indigenous town of San Andres Atzapa, 53 kilometers (33 miles) west of Guatemala City.
Every Oct. 28, the faithful – most of them Mayans – celebrate the day of the deity whose worship began at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Maya in the 16th century and whose designation as a saint is the result of religious syncretism.
Those faithful to Maximon bring assorted gifts and offerings to the temple, mostly consisting of cash, corn, alcohol and cigars.
Alejandro is one of the devotees from the town of Chimaltenango, some 6 km away, and he paid a mariachi to play regional songs for an hour while other believers displayed images of St. Simon and danced to the rhythms inside the temple while embracing the pictures.
Another follower, Ingrid, 30, danced and sang “Amor eterno” (Eternal Love) by Mexican singer Juan Gabriel, while holding a beer.
“St. Simon has given me many favors, he’s helped me in my life and in the economic area. Each year, I honor him,” she told EFE.
The San Andres Itzapa temple was built in 2011 in honor of St. Simon so that people could hold spiritual ceremonies in his honor, along with “limpias” where devotees pay spiritual guides to receive blessings and to increase the number of favors they receive from the folk saint.
On the walls of the temple are signs and photographs that believers who have benefitted from the saint’s intercession leave to thank him for the business deals they have been able to strike, the successful trips to the US they have made as migrants and even for being able to buy cars or for realizing their romantic aspirations.
St. Simon is said to represent both light and dark, to be a trickster, a womanizer and a protector of couples.
He is depicted as a middle-aged indigenous man, elegantly dressed in a black suit, tie and hat. Usually, he is portrayed with a cigar in his mouth and wearing dark glasses.
His followers smoke cigars before his image or ask to be “protected” in a ceremony involving the sprinkling of alcohol presided over by a priest or shaman from the temple.
The symbolism of St. Simon crosses over the line between good and evil, between religiosity and vice, and the celebrations in his honor last until Nov. 1, when All Saints Day is celebrated in Guatemala.