What would Maximón do?

That was the last of them. We put the last crew of family members on the plane and headed back to the fragmented reality of our home – intermittent internet service, static-filled linea fija, useless Vonage without an IP address, dead hard drives, bad power adapters, beeping APCs and the general mayhem of when machines talk to one another and decide to go on strike against their cruel tormentors that give them no rest. Why this onslaught of technological rebellion? What was the universe telling us that we just weren’t listening to? I thought of the visit we paid to Maximón in Santiago, Atitlan this weekend and wondered if I could take my technology troubles to him like the couple in this video who asked the shaman to intercede on their behalf and talk to the Maximón about being evicted from their home:

We were led to him by two Tuk Tuk drivers who zipped us to the other side of the island, passing Parque de Paz, the devastation of Hurricane Stan, and onward to a private home with thatched roofs, dirt floors, and a family eating their lunch by the large pot boiling over the wooden fire. A thick plume of incense billowed from the entrance to a dark cabin where three people kneeled before the austere wooden figure of Maximón clad in silk ties covering his entire wooden body and smoking a large cigar that the two attendants – a cigar man who was a glorified ashtray holder and a liquor bearer –both watched as the shaman issued his plea in the Tz’utujil language. Our Tuk Tuk drivers translated as I sat in the corner and took the video (I had paid Q10 for one photo, but there was no set price for video, so they looked confused when I pulled out my camera).

The family was in trouble, I was informed, they were getting evicted and only the Maximón, the Maya god who has the powers that only the believer can entrust to him in the area the believer needs the most help in. The plea continued, the incense filled the entire room, the couples’ child shrieked and then a bottle of Pepsi was passed around for all to drink.The cigar holder man and the alcohol holder both drank and smoked. I could buy Maximón a drink, the Tuk Tuk friend told me. It would be my offering to him. Or we could sit next to him on either side of the chair and that was permitted while the shaman spoke. We could see things from the Maximón’s perspective. I sat quietly in the room and took pictures. “Does Maximón sleep?” I asked our guides. They looked annoyed. “Of course he sleeps. Every night we take him upstairs and at 5 AM he is brought down to hear people’s problems.” For how long, I wondered? “Until, next year when the Maximón is moved back to the city.” So he’s a traveling god? “Yes, he goes to where people need him.” That makes a lot of sense I told my Tuk Tuk friend. I thought perhaps my technology problems weren’t even worth mentioning to him, he probably had so many other things to worry about.

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