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

How does an ajq’ij do her or his work?

Martin told that he saw the work of the ajq’ijab as being much like the work of servants. The interviewees all agreed that ajq’ijab serve people by helping them in times of need. These people are referred to as “visitors,” and the ajq’ijab can help by counselling them, doing divinations, performing ceremonies and more. Sometimes, problems are solved by giving the visitor a cross, which the ajq’ij has a responsibility of maintaining on behalf of her or him.

It is not always easy to be an ajq’ij. The work comes with a lot of responsibility, and several of the interviewees seemed afraid of the consequences should they fail to work enough or fail to work properly. They make several sacrifices in daily life, having sometimes to put family matters aside to be able to help others. Some of the interviewees were also concerned for Maya spirituality as a whole, due to problems with robberies and vandalism or folklorisation and commercialisation. As a visitor himself, Byron noted that he sometimes could not afford going to ceremonies because the owners of the land demanded payment.

The commercialisation mentioned by Manuel and Juan can be seen in the wider context of religious tourism. Manuel, Juan and Irma Alicia Velasquez Ni- matuj accuse the government and INGUAT of using the Maya and their spirituality to persuade tourists to visit Guatemala. As we have seen, Michael Stausberg has observed similar tendencies in other areas and with other groups, such as the Sami of Scandinavia and the Maori of New Zealand.

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