Maximón – Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala - Atlas Obscura


Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala

Guatemalan womanizer, venerated during Holy Week. 


Maximón is not exactly the picture of a saint. Often portrayed with dark sunglasses and a bandit-style bandana, he looks more like a wild-west villain than a Central American saint. Yet his effigy resides in many homes in Western Guatemala and he is worshipped with careful attention.

According to folk legend, when men left the village to work in the field, Maximón crept into town and slept with their wives. When the men found out, they returned and cut off all his limbs, leaving him behind as a womanizing torso. Besides his philandering, he was also well known for his bad habits of chain smoking and drinking heavily. Still, every year during Holy Week, an effigy of Maximón leaves his shrine and leads a procession through many villages in Guatemala.

How exactly people in Guatemala began worshipping this borracho is unclear. Most believe his origins lie in pre-Colombian beliefs that fused with Catholicism over the years. Regardless of his beginnings, Maximón is a huge priority for many in Guatemala, and his worship is taken very seriously.

Every year in villages that worship him, a home for an effigy of Maximón is chosen, and a shrine is erected. Usually, Maximón is depicted as very short, and often without his legs or arms. Although he is occasionally presented with flowers, it is also common for worshippers to place cigarettes, money and alcohol in front of his effigy, and to even pour alcohol into his mouth. Villagers regularly visit him throughout the year and finally give the saint special treatment during Holy Week.

Prior to the week, he is bathed, and the residual dirty water is then sold to locals. Fitting his general appearance and history, most people do not pray for Maximón for good luck during Holy Week, but instead pray that the drunken, limbless saint will not take out his anger on the village.

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December 6, 2011

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