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Home arrow Sociology arrow Balancing the World: Contemporary Maya ajq’ijab in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala


A lot of the concepts and ideas mentioned so far were brought up by the interviewees as reasons for doing their work. They have to do what they do because it is their responsibility according to their beliefs and the beliefs of people around


But the work also has a practical side. Making an offering, by definition, has a cost. The ajq’ijab need fresh materials for every ceremony, and often they have to travel to get to where it is. This costs both time and money. The ajq’ij has to pay for her or his private ceremonies, but it seems they rarely pay for doing ceremonies for others. This led me to ask if there is money to be made for the ajq’ij by selling their services - or put differently, if there is a material reason for working as an ajq’ij as well.

Well, times have changed, right? In the old days, the ajq’ij had no salary, nothing. But in the community they had ... For example, you would have wood, when needed. Another friend would have an arroba[1] of maize. And another would have something else. The ajq’ij would have a community service, so he would not charge.

But today, after the invasion[2] and all of that, the population has been dispersed, and they have to think more about themselves. [.] Among us, among the ajq’ijab, we always ask the question of whether or not the person who needs the service is able to pay. If he has no money, he doesn’t need to pay, never. No, I will not charge ... just because he has no money, no, I will not [refuse him], so I help him.

Now, to those who have money, if they have a business, for example, and a shop, and a car of the latest model, then I will never say “that’s fine, it’s nothing, no charge” and then die starving. That isn’t good either.

So, look. There’s no fixed rate, but rather the ajq’ij says “leave what you think it is worth,” right? It depends on the situation and the conscience of the visitor. If you have a million and leave a centavo, then “Wait a minute! How awful!” right?

- Byron

  • [1] 11,5 kg.
  • [2] By the Spanish colonists in 1524.
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