What better way to spend a Saturday than a rigorous hike up a volcanic crater so you can see a beautiful laguna? And so we did! Laguna Chicabal is a mysterious and lovely place where the fog hangs over the lake and the Mayan people hold ceremonies on the shore. The Mayan culture is an entire adventure of its own and each encounter I have gives me pause. Today that pause was the various “stations” of ceremonial expression that we came upon as we walked around the lake. The cross is the center of the altar for each one. At the cross are carefully placed flowers, corn, and other expressions of nature the people bring as they offer prayers and thanksgivings.
I’m not sure if this was the first time I’ve actually come upon one of their ceremonial altars… but this is the first time I have been struck by the cross. The cross is our identifying symbol as Christians. If we go to a church that doesn’t have a cross, within seconds someone will say, “where is the cross?” And for the Mayans the cross sets up the altar as a place where they set apart the distractions of the day and focus for sacred time. The water at the laguna is considered a sacred place for them so there is no swimming, no boats, no pollution. The water is beautiful and clear. The fog moves over and out many times throughout the day and night, creating a mysterious and ever-changing picture of this special place.
The Presidential elections are coming up in mid-September here so there is advertising everywhere, of course. I have learned from my new Guatemalan friends and my fellow students from Taiwan that all of us disdain the inordinate use of political jargon and advertising that litters our landscapes…no matter the country where you are walking. Many people of Guatemala have apologized for it, just as we would if someone was visiting us. Anyway — that political trademark made it’s way all the way into the laguna of Chicabol so on every cross there was a little political sticker!
As we finished our hike and made our way back into the village for our bus, we came upon a funeral procession. The entire village was involved which means we were as well. We walked in the crowd of Mayan people….hundreds of them, all following the casket in a Toyota pick up truck.
The tradition is to do this and to bury only at 3pm since that is when Jesus died. After 3 days there is a return to the cemetery to see if the resurrection has occurred for the loved one. Is anyone having trouble finding the lines? Crosses, 3 days, and the hope of resurrection…
All of this led to some great conversation with Kicki and Ean who are from Taiwan and neither Christian, Buddhist or anything. We all are pondering much of what was shared today. Kicki and Ean say that in Taiwan their friends who are Christian are very happy and they also say they can see that I am as well…that my work is meaningful. They have both taken a year off from their stressful work to travel Central & South American and learn Spanish in the process. He is a computer program guru (big business like GroupOn) and she is in public relations.
And so…a day at Chicabol. I walked home while the sun was setting and the night air of Xela made me pull the jacket from my backpack. People are coming and going in the cathedrals for Saturday night mass. The streets are full of music, baskets of bread and sounds coming from the rooftops of the homes. Lilian made me another amazing Guatemalan meal. I am tired and full of joy. I’m thankful and certain that as we walked along the path today, Jesus was walking with us. Let it be.