Home Sociology Balancing the World: Contemporary Maya ajq’ijab in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Christianity and Maya spirituality
My interviewees used many different names for who or what is on the “other side” when talking about their role as an intermediary. Some ajq’ijab are Christians, and will tell that they communicate with Jesus or the Christian god. Some ajq’ijab are not Christians, and will tell that they communicate with other forces or beings. And many of them will do both, depending on the situation.
Teresa and Isabela see Christianity as a welcome addition to Maya spirituality.
What is my religion? My religion is based in two, let’s say, but I take it as one. I’ve been a Catholic since I was a little girl. And I am still a Catholic, but as ajq’ij.
I see the Maya spirituality as ... well, we’re thankful for anything that grows in the earth. We’re talking about three spirits. We’re talking about God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. And through those spirits, we can ... We believe in those because we’re thankful for the life in our Mother Earth. Because, where does the maize grow? In our Mother Earth. Where does the bean grow? In our Mother Earth. Earlier, the Maya, the ancient ones in the past, gave thanks if they chopped down a tree. But everything changed when the Spaniards arrived, and the Maya changed too.
Rosa told me that she normally goes to both Catholic masses and to Maya ceremonies, depending on the situation. This is also true for Teresa, who calls herself a Maya-Catholic. As she explained in the previous quote, Isabela also sees herself as both Catholic and a practitioner of Maya spirituality, but she makes a distinction between them in her daily life. She will use different elements from these two spheres in her work depending on the situation.
There are different days. One day, I’ll work with the Maya. Another day, I’ll work with the Catholic for curing. So it always changes. [...] Therefore, I say that all religions are good. [...] We are the Maya, I know that is valuable. The Catholics are valuable and the Maya as well. It’s the same with the Evangelicals ... [but] to me that is not valuable,
I don’t know much about that. They only talk about the Bible, they don’t want to talk about Mother Earth, not like the Catholics who always work with the Maya.
Carlos is Christian as well, and sees the Maya spirituality as a gift from God. Although he calls himself a Catholic, he seems to be influenced by the Mormon missionaries who have been active in his town in recent years.
We have Maya spirituality because God gave it to us. Yes, God gave it to us, and that’s why we’re practising it. It wasn’t an idea by a person, no. God gave us this religion. And so here we are together, respecting it and working with it. Love is what God gave, to love it, respect it. To ask for life and to ask for sustenance. Yes, and to give thanks to our Father when it starts raining, and so on. [---]
We’re his children. There is no other father, only him, the Eternal Father. And then there’s Jesus. Jesus came to us so we won’t be lost. Through the power of Jesus, we’re here today, because he suffered a little bit to forgive us. But the one I find most interesting is the Eternal Father, because he is the only true father.[---]
Now, there are many types of nations, but none like the one the Father gave us. That’s where he grew up, they say, Jesus. That’s where he grew up, that’s where he left the idea, that’s where the book is. And so they went, and they left books there, in the United States. And that’s why that country is the head. That’s where the book is, so we can get it, study it, all of it. The United States is the strongest, the head of the whole world.
Mezcolanza, ‘mixing’ or ‘blending’ is an issue many ajq’ijab have been discussing among themselves in later years, including within Manuel’s group. Teresa has been criticised for being both Catholic and an ajq’ij, but she sees no problems with it herself - in fact, she told me that she became an ajq’ij because God had told her to do so in a dream.
There are other ajq’ijab that can’t be part of other religions. For them, an ajq’ij is an ajq’ij, and they never mention the word God. Never, in their opinion. There’s a group who say “we don’t like that, remove it, because that’s what the foreigners brought!” you know, “it came with the invasion of 12 October . That’s when we lost our roots.” They say that [Catholicism] is something different. [...] But every ajq’ij has a different viewpoint or focus.
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