Diego Isaías Hernández Méndez
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Juan la Laguna

Peligro por un Remolino del Aire Xokomee’l
Danger Because of a Whirlwind of the Xokomee’l, 2015


Oil on canvas


The powerful afternoon wind brings chaos for a weaver and her children.

El poderoso viento de la tarde trae caos para una tejedora y sus hijos.


Diego Isaías Hernández Méndez
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Juan la Laguna

Sacrificio y Costumbre del Pascual Abaj
Sacrifice and Tradition of Pascual Abaj,   2009


Oil on canvas
/Arte Maya Tz’utuhil

Text

Texto



Diego Isaías Hernández Méndez
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Juan la Laguna

Texeles y Sacristanes Se Asustaron por el Eclipse
Women church officials and Sacristans Surprised by the Eclipse   2008


Oil on canvas

Text

Texto


Diego Isaías Hernández Méndez
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Juan la Laguna

Alegría de los Difuntos en el Aire
The Joy of the Dead in the Air,   2016


Oil on canvas


Kites are used to communicate with loved ones who have passed away.

Texto


Diego Isaías Hernández Méndez
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Juan la Laguna

Susto de Señales en el Cielo
Surprise at Signs in the Sky,   2007


Oil on canvas


Text

Texto


Diego Isaías Hernández Méndez
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Juan la Laguna

Peligro de cortar flores y bajar barriletes del día de los difuntos Danger in Picking Flowers and Bringing Down Kites on the Day
of the Dead,   2005


Oil on canvas
/Arte Maya Tz’utuhil

Text

Texto


Domingo García Criado
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1963

Procesión  /  Procession, 2006

Oil on canvas


Women carry the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe in a procession in her honor.  A man waves a censor of incense before her.

Throughout Mexico and Central America, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12.  In 1531, the peasant Juan Diego had a vision of a beautiful indigenous girl surrounded by light, on the Hill of Tepeyac, near current-day Mexico City.  The hill was sacred to Tonantzin, the mother goddess.  

The girl spoke to him in Nahuatl, directing him to have a church built on the spot.  He recognized that she was the Virgin Mary, and went to the Catholic Archbishop with her request.

As proof of her authenticity, the Virgin had Juan Diego gather flowers from the site and bring them wrapped up in his cloak to the Archbishop.  When he opened his cloak, out fell Castilian roses—not native to the site.  The Virgin’s image miraculously appeared on his cloak.

The Virgin of Guadalupe, combining the indigenous mother goddess and the Christian Virgin Mary, expresses the union of the Spanish and native cultures.


José Antonio González Escobar
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna

El Palo Volador  /  The Ritual of the Pole Flyers, 2006

Oil on canvas


The Dance of the Flyers is an ancient ritual in which five men climb a pole 100 feet high, and then four of them—tied with ropes—fling themselves into the air to spin around the pole and so descend to the ground.  The fifth man remains atop the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum.  It is said that the dance was created to plead for rain to end a severe drought.

La Danza de los Voladores es un antiguo ritual en el que cinco hombres suben un poste de 100 pies de altura.  Lluego cuatro de ellos, atados con cuerdas, se lanzan al aire para girar alrededor del poste y así descender al suelo. El quinto hombre permanece en lo alto del poste, bailando y tocando una flauta y un tambor. Se dice que el baile fue creado para rezar por la lluvia, que ponga fin a una severa sequía.


José María (Chema) González Cox
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1961

La Huida de las Vírgenes  /  The Flight of the Virgins, 2007

Watercolor on paper


A flight of birds swoops dramatically out of the mist past Santiago Apóstol, the Catholic church in Santiago Atitlán, which dates from 1571.   According to legend, as the conquistadors approached, the Tz’utuhil Maya virgins threw themselves off a cliff to escape their fate.  Miraculously, they were transformed into birds.

Un vuelo de aves arremete dramáticamente fuera de la bruma en frente de la iglesia de Santiago Apóstol en Santiago Atitlán, que data de 1571. Según la leyenda, cuando los conquistadores se acercaban al pueblo, las  vírgenes mayas se tiraron por un acantilado para escapar de un destino feo. Milagrosamente, se transformaron en aves.

Juanita López
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1981

El Llamado  /  The Call, 2008

Oil on canvas

A family performs a traditional ritual to call a missing person home.  They purchase a new clay pot, bring it to the four corners of the room, light candles and copal incense, and say prayers.  Then they call the person’s name into the pot.  The lost person has no choice but to return.  

Una familia realiza un ritual tradicional para llamar a una persona desaparecida. Compran una nueva olla de barro, la llevan a las cuatro esquinas de la habitación, encienden velas e incienso copal, y rece oraciones. Luego llaman en la olla el nombre de la persona perdida. La persona tiene que regresar.


Julián Coché Mendoza
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Juan la Laguna

Danza de Venado  /  Deer Dance, 2007

Oil on canvas


A wooden mask with real deer antlers threaded with ribbons or strings and bells is worn on top of the dancer’s head. Some dancers wear deer hides or jaguar pelts of animals they have killed. The dance was developed pre contact and centers around a deer being hunted by men, as well as lions and tigers, referencing the competition between man and nature for food. During the dance dogs help the men chase and claim the deer by fighting off the animals which includes the humorous escapades of monkeys.

Julián Coché Mendoza
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Juan la Laguna

Quema del Torito  /  Burning of the Little Bull, 2010

Oil on canvas



The Dance of the Little Bull is an annual ceremony to honor a village’s patron saint. A man representing el torito (the little bull) wears a wood frame shaped like a bull with exploding fireworks. The dance has multiple participants, and may be performed over many days for several hours each day while accompanied by a marimba band.

Lorenzo González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, 1927-1996

Procesión, Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán  
Procession in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, 1993


Oil on canvas


In this religious procession, four women dressed in their best clothing are carrying candles.  Their husbands are members of a religious cofradía, a brotherhood of devout Catholics.  The candles represent the four cardinal directions in Maya religion.

Lorenzo González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, 1927-1996

Procesión, Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán  
Procession in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, 1993


Oil on canvas


In this religious procession


Maria Elena Curruchiche
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1959

Abuelita Ixmucane  /  Grandma Ixmucane, 2008

Oil on canvas

The Popol Vuh recounts stories of how the first people were created by the gods. A number of efforts failed.  It was Grandmother Ixmucane who successfully created the first people out of cornmeal  During rituals in some Maya communities, the people eat little human figures made of cornmeal, rather than drinking atol, a beverage made of corn.

This artist is the granddaughter of Andrés Curruchich (1891-1969), the first Kaqchikel painter from San Juan Comalapa.

Maria Elena Curruchiche
E. Curuchich
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1959

Los Cofrades  /  Members of the Cofradía, ca. 1990

Oil on canvas

Danzas, chirimia, tambor, bara…  Maya cofrades are confraternities…
The bara symbolizes authority and ancestral power. The flute (chirimia) and drum (tambor)

María Nicolasa Chex
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa

La Robada  /  The Kidnapping, 2007

Oil on canvas

A woman is being abducted by three men.  Meanwhile, members of her family and community are worried and upset. In the foreground we see a small bundle of clothing, sandals, a bundled backstrap loom, and a child-sized shirt.  The woman has evidently packed up her belongings;  she may be pregnant and has probably agreed to stage a kidnapping as a form of elopement. This is one avenue a couple may take, if their families do not approve of their marriage.

The community will now go out looking for the pair, and bring them back.  One grandmother holds a stick which will be used to beat the couple for transgressing the community's norms. The other grandmother holds candles, to indicate that the pair will then be brought to the church for a proper wedding.

Maria Teodora Mendez de González
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna

Baile de Cofradía en Todos Santos Cuchumatán
Dance of the Cofradia in Todos Santos Cuchumatán, 2007


Oil on canvas


Couples dance to the music of a marimba, in an event sponsored by a religious brotherhood in Todos Santos Cuchumatán.

Las parejas bailan a la música de una marimba, en un evento patrocinado por una hermandad religiosa en Todos Santos Cuchumatán.


Mario González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna

Matrimonio maya  /  Maya Wedding, 2009

Oil on canvas


A couple is married according to Maya religion, before an altar laden with heaps of colored candles and surrounded with flowers and copal incense.   Family and two priests are in attendance.

Mario, a prolific painter, is a younger brother of artist Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay.  They are both grandsons of the first Tz’utuhil Maya painter, Rafaél González y González (1907-1996).

Una pareja se casa según la religión maya, en frente de un altar cargado de montones de velas y rodeado de flores e incienso copal. La familia y dos sacerdotes están presentes.

Mario, un prolífico pintor, es hermano menor del artista Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay. Ambos son nietos del primer pintor maya Tz'utuhil, Rafaél González y González (1907-1996).


Mario González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna

Curandera de Niños / Healer of Children, 2009

Oil on canvas


An indigenous healer cares for sick children.


Mario González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna

Ofrendas Ancestrales / Offerings to the Ancestors   ca. 2012

Oil on canvas
Helen Moran Collection

Women make offerings at the shrine of Pascual Abaj, on a hill above the town of Chichicastenango.

NOTE: This painting bears the signature Pedro Chavajay Toc.  Joseph Johnston and Mario Gonzalez Chavajay verify that this was actually painted by Mario.  It seems to have been stolen, and the signature forged.  See mro446.

Matías González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1960

La pedida  /  The Request, 1999

Oil on canvas


Two families are meeting with the cacique (headman) to negotiate the marriage of a young couple.  Each side has brought gifts—bottles of liquor from the young man’s family, and a basket of rolls from the woman’s family.

Matías learned to paint from his older brother, well-known artist Mariano González Chavajay.  They are nephews of Rafaél González y González.

Dos familias se reúnen con el cacique para negociar el matrimonio de una joven pareja. Cada lado ha traído regalos—botellas de licor de la familia del joven, y una canasta de pan de la familia de la mujer.

Matías aprendió a pintar de su hermano mayor, el artista bien conocido Mariano González Chavajay. Son sobrinos del primer pintor Tz’utuhil, Rafaél González y González.


Matías González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1960

El Velorio en Atitlán / The Wake in Santiago Atitlán  2007

Oil on canvas


Family and friends mourn the death of a loved one.  They have brought flowers and candles, and are burning copal incense. The men are drinking alcohol.

Matías González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1960

Palo Volador / The Flying Pole    2009

Oil on canvas



The ancient dance ritual of pole flying is recorded in the sacred Maya book the Popul Vuh. Five men climb the pole but only four, wearing monkey and jaguar masks, ascend two at a time, performing acrobatics while circling the pole. The fifth volador, the Caporal, wears a cowboy mask (is this correct?) and remains at the top of the pole playing music on a flute and drum dedicated to the sun, the winds, and the cardinal directions. The dance mimics flight, and communicates with the deities, celebrating the birth of the universe.


Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Nuestra Madre Tierra  /  Our Mother Earth, 2010

Oil on canvas

In the Guatemala highlands, a small indigenous village nestles in the bosom of Mother Earth, who embraces the surrounding volcanoes.  Corn, the staff of life, is flourishing.  Native birds, many of them depicted in the patterns of traditional weaving, enliven the scene.  
The Earth, and everything in it, is sacred to the Maya.

Paula Nicho Cúmez has achieved an international reputation with her poetic, sometimes surrealist visions of women and the natural world.  Originally a weaver, she learned to paint from her husband, Salvador Cúmez Curruchich.  They live in San Juan Comalapa, which has become a center for Maya art.  In the painting, Mother Earth is wearing a blouse from the artist’s own town.

En lo alto del Altiplano, una pequeña aldea indígena se enclava en el seno de la Madre Tierra, que abraza los volcanes circundantes. El maíz, el bastón de la vida, está floreciendo. Las aves nativas, muchas de ellas representadas en los patrones del tejido tradicional, animan la escena. La Tierra, y todo lo que existe en ella, es sagrada para los mayas.

La artista Paula Nicho Cúmez ha logrado una reputación internacional con sus visiones poéticas y surrealistas de las mujeres y del mundo natural. Originariamente tejedora, Paula aprendió a pintar de su esposo, Salvador Cúmez Curruchich. Viven en San Juan Comalapa, un centro de arte maya. En la pintura, la Madre Tierra lleva un huipil del propio pueblo de la artista.


Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Ruk’ux Kaj / Corazón del Cielo / Heart of the Sky, 2010
Oil on canvas
Helen Moran Collection

Artist’s Statement:  There are three energies:  Ruk’ux ya’el, Heart of the Water;  Ruk’ux ulew, the Heart of the Earth, and Ruk’ux kaj, the Heart of the Sky.  These are the energies that protect us and provide us with security and alimentation, the way a mother does.

Hay tres energías, Ruk’ux ya’el (el Corazón del agua), Ruk’ux ulew (el Corazón de la tierra), y Ruk’ux kaj (el Corazón del Cielo).  Ellos son quienes nos protegen y nos provéen de seguridad y alimentación como lo hace una madre.


Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Corazón del Agua / Heart of the Water, 2015
Oil on canvas
Helen Moran Collection

The Heart of the Water emerges from a spring in the form of a Maya woman.  The traditional patterns of Maya weaving are revealed in her skin.

Artist’s Statement:  There are three energies:  Ruk’ux ya’el, Heart of the Water;  Ruk’ux ulew, the Heart of the Earth;  and Ruk’ux kaj, the Heart of the Sky.  These are the energies that protect us and provide us with security and alimentation, the way a mother does.

El Corazón del Agua emerge de una fuente natural en forma de una mujer Maya. Los patrones tradicionales del tejido Maya se revelan en su piel.

Declaración de la Artista:  Hay tres energías, Ruk’ux ya’el (el Corazón del agua), Ruk’ux ulew (el Corazón de la tierra), y Ruk’ux kaj (el Corazón del Cielo).  Ellos son quienes nos protegen y nos provéen de seguridad y alimentación como lo hace una madre.

Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Melodía en el Alma / Melody in the Soul, 2012
Oil on canvas
Helen Moran Collection

In a field of flowers, a young woman from Quetzaltenango dances joyfully to ancestral music.

En un campo de flores, una joven de Quetzaltenango baile con alegría a la música ancestral.

(see Artist Statement)
Declaración de la Artista: Melodía en el Alma

Cuando escuchas una melodía, se eleva el alma a un lugar infinito, mágico. En el cielo aparecen unos espíritus que tocan algunos instrumentos. Uno toca el tambor y otro la flauta de caña. Cada vez que escuchamos música autóctona, nos recordamos la vida de nuestros abuelos y abuelas, que es el sentido de nuestra música maya.

El caracol ha sido utilizado por nuestros antepasados para saludar a los cuatro puntos cardinales. Su melodioso sonido nos informa de un nuevo amanecer, empezar otro día; y también, cuando nace un niño, anuncia una nueva vida. La flauta de caña es un instrumento de viento, con un sonido hermoso. Por eso la joven danza con toda alegría, porque la música la siente en el alma y en todo su ser. El caracol, la flauta, la marimba son algunos instrumentos que nuestros abuelos nos dejaron para deleitarnos y darnos un toque de alegría en el corazón.
Artist’s Statement – Melody in the Soul
The woman dances with her heart when dawn comes.  She celebrates its colors and dances with the ancestors—the grandfathers and grandmothers.  In the songs of the birds and with the flowers she has a presentiment of the beginning of a new time/era.  She leaves her sorrows behind.
La mujer danza con su corazón cuando inicia el amanecer.  Celebra  sus colores y baila con los abuelos y abuelas.  En los cantos de pájaro y con las flores presencia el comienzo de un Nuevo tiempo.  Ella  deja sus dolores atrás.

When you hear a melody, your soul rises up to an infinite, magical place. In the sky there appear spirits that play instruments. One plays the drum and other the cane flute. Each time we listen to indigenous music, we remember the life of our grandfathers and grandmothers, which is the meaning of our Mayan music.

The conch shell was used by our ancestors to salute the four cardinal points. Its melodious sound tells us of a new dawn, the beginning of another day. Also, when a child is born, it announces a new life. The cane flute is a wind instrument, with a beautiful sound. That is why the young woman dances joyfully, because she feels the music in her soul and in her whole being. The conch, the flute, the marimba are instruments that our grandparents handed down to delight us and put a touch of joy in our hearts.

Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Destrucción de la Naturaleza / Destruction of Nature, 2007
Oil on canvas
Helen Moran Collection

The torrential rains of a disastrous hurricane have wrought terrible destruction upon an indigenous community.  People are being swept away by flooding and powerful mudslides.  Mother Nature, suffering with the people, is personified in one of the mountains.

In October of 2005, Hurricane Stan caused thousands of deaths and destruction of tens of thousands of homes in Guatemala and throughout Central America and southern Mexico.

Las lluvias torrenciales de un huracán desastroso han causado una terrible destrucción en una comunidad indígena. Las personas están siendo arrastradas por las inundaciones y los poderosos deslizamientos de tierra. La madre naturaleza, sufriendo con la gente, está personificada en una de las montañas.

En octubre de 2005, el huracán Stan causó miles de muertes y la destrucción de decenas de miles de hogares en Guatemala, en toda América Central, y en el sur de México.


Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Queremos Vivir / We Want to Live, 2016
Oil on canvas
Helen Moran Collection

As global warming begins to harm the earth, even the trees are crying out for life.

Artist’s Statement:   The trees are beings like ourselves—they just can’t talk.  They want to live, with water and with rain.  But unfortunately water is now growing scarce everywhere.

This is a warning that they give us—We want to live!  But if everyone, for the sake of money, contaminates the world, what will happen?  

Artist’s Statement:  Bueno, eso es muy profundo también, hablar de la contaminación, que no solo en Comalapa vivimos sino que quizás en otros lados, pero decirlo, que los árboles son seres igual que nosotros, solo que ellos no hablan, ellos quieren vivir, por el agua, por la lluvia, pero lamentablemente se está escaseando en todos lados el agua, como dice Débora, ayer estábamos platicando que con ellos el Lago de Sololá, se está bajando se está escaseando, eso es un aviso que dan ellos, queremos vivir, pero si nosotros no cuidamos, o no hacemos lo que, no contaminamos nuestra madre tierra, con tanto que escuchamos ahora, hubo un par de meses que vi en la prensa que no se en qué lugar, ya no me recuerdo, hay una fábrica, donde se contamino toda el agua que es color rojo y se fue y los peces se murieron, la sabes se murieron, los que estaban alrededor y toda la gente decía, porque ese color del agua? Nunca hemos vivido, nunca hemos visto eso, y ellos experimentaron que era un químico de una fábrica quien contamino todo eso, que triste para mí. Si todos, por tener mucho dinero contaminamos a todo el mundo, que pasaría? Entonces es el significado lo poco que puedo resumir, los arboles quieren vivir no quieren morir.

Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Proceso y visión de los acuerdos de paz
Process and Vision of the Peace Accords, 2007


Oil on canvas


This splendid image of a Maya woman spinning her thread—perhaps Ixchel, the Maya goddess of weaving—represents the hopes of the indigenous people for the creation of a lasting peace after several decades of war.  The peace accords of 1996, aided by the presence of United Nations observers, brought an end to the genocidal civil war.

The woman’s figure unites the earth with the lake and sky, both of which have taken on the color of human skin. Peacock feather designs cover the woman’s body. Paula refers to her traje (traditional handwoven attire) as her second skin. It is part of who she is and she would feel naked without it. The Peace Accords included respect for the Maya culture and traditional Maya religious beliefs.

Artist’s Statement:
To me, Guatemala has been drowned, as in the sea. I feel that the only thing that remains for us is to once again weave the country, without forgetting our histories, which we carry in our skin and in our voices.




Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Proceso y Visión de los Acuerdos de Paz, 2007

Óleo sobre lienzo
Comprado de Arte Maya Tz’utuhil

Esta imagen espléndida de una mujer maya girando su hilo representa quizás Ixchel, diosa maya de tejer.  Representa las esperanzas del pueblo indígena para la creación de una paz duradera después de muchas décadas de guerra. Los acuerdos de paz de 1996, ayudadas por la presencia de observadores de las Naciones Unidas, pusieron fin a la guerra civil genocida.

La figura de la mujer se une la tierra con el lago y el cielo, los cuales tienen el color de la piel humana. Los diseños de plumas de pavo real cubren su cuerpo. Paula considere a su traje, tejido a mano, como su segunda piel.  Es parte de su identidad:  se sentiría desnuda si llevaba otra ropa. Los acuerdos de paz incluyen el respeto por la cultura maya y sus creencias religiosas.

Declaración de la Artista:

Para mí, Guatemala ha estado hundida como en el mar. Siento que lo único que nos queda es volver a tejer el país, sin olvidar nuestras historias, que las llevamos en nuestra piel y en nuestras voces.


Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

El Peso de Nuestra Historia
The Weight of Our History, 2012


Oil on canvas

Squatting low amid the coffee plants where she is picking ripe coffee beans, a woman struggles to lift the enormous basket of produce that she has nurtured. Her body bears the traces of all the work she has done to provide for her family.

Artist’s Statement:
Each woman has her story engraved upon her body.  The future is a weight, an uncertain landscape that we must lift up in order for us to rise, to move forward.

more

Cada mujer tiene grabado en su cuerpo su historia.  El future es una carga, un paisaje incierto, que tenemos que llevar para superarnos.

Cuando empiezo una obra me dirijo a observar mi alrededor y lo que sucede en el tiempo, la obra El Peso de Nuestra Historia refleja el cansancio y la magnitud de las cosas que cargamos con el paso del año, que se vuelve un peso fuerte cuando no sanamos las heridas o las marcas que deja nuestra misma historia en nuestro cuerpo, las 13 energías de nuestro cuerpo trabajando día a día para lograr sobresalir, la cultura, los valores, los conocimientos todo lo que cargamos. Las mujeres especialmente que son vistas como responsables de manejar su vida y la de su familia... mujer trabajadora construyendo toda una historia, su historia

Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

El principio de una nueva era
The Beginning of a New Era, 2012


Oil on canvas


A woman rendered in blue and bearing patterns of Maya weaving, raises her arms in front of a Maya pyramid.   December 21, 2012 marked the end of the 13th baktún (a 5,125-year cycle of history)—and the beginning of the 14th baktún.

The artist writes, “I painted this thinking about the beginning of a new Baktún.  We are happy that this date is coming, and are already making preparations for it.  I painted this with a lot of excitement about the times that are coming.”

I painted this thinking about the beginning of a new Baktún.  We are happy that this date is coming, and are already making preparations for it.  I painted this with a lot of excitement about the times that are coming.

Una mujer rendida en azul y con patrones de tejido maya en su piel, levanta sus brazos delante de una pirámide maya. El 21 de diciembre de 2012 marcó el final del 13º baktún (un ciclo de 5,125 años de historia) y el comienzo del 14º baktún.

Declaración de la Artista:

Pinté este pensando sobre el comienzo de un nuevo baktún. Estamos contentos de que esta fecha llegue, y ya estamos haciendo los preparativos para ello. Pinté esto con mucha emoción acerca de los tiempos que están llegando.

Artist Statement
A woman receives and celebrates the energies of a new era, a new B’aktun.  She is in front of a place in memory so that she will not forget her past, and she will carry with her the energies of a new era.

Una mujer recibe y celebra las energías de un Nuevo B’aktun.  Está frente a un sitio de la memoria para no olvidar su pasado y llevar consigo las energías de una nueva era.

Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Mas Allá del Universo
Beyond the Universe, 2005


Oil on canvas


Artist’s Statement:
Sometimes I dream of flying.  I have never known where the flight will carry me. I just let myself be lifted up and I paint, and I feel that I am beyond the universe.

Algunas veces sueño volando.  Nunca he sabido hacia donde han de llevarme, solo me dejo llevar y pinto, y me siento más allá del universo.

Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Luna Plateada Dorada
The Silvery Shimmering Moon, 2007


Oil on canvas


The reclining woman, rather than being clothed, wears designs on her skin typical of the designs used by weavers. To Paula this signifies that a woman’s traje, (traditional attire) is part of her very essence. These patterns are typical of weavings worn by women from Quetzaltenango. The significance of this woman would be clear to the Maya of Guatemala. In ancient Maya mythology, the moon goddess was a young beautiful woman. She was often depicted as reclining on the Maya glyph for moon, a crescent.

The title of this painting alludes to the song by Paco Pérez “Luna de Xelajú” probably the most beloved song of Guatemala. The words tell of the never-forgotten love and loss of a brown-skinned girl under the silvery moon of Quetzaltenango. The line of the song that Paula refers to in the title is: “...I come to sing to my beloved under the silvery moon (luna plateada) of my Xelaju.” Xela (pronounced Chela) is the pre-Hispanic Maya name for Quetzaltenango. It was on a plain outside of Xelajú that the Quiché Maya king Tecún Umán, dressed in feathers and all of his kingly Maya finery, was defeated by Pedro Alvarado. Buses going to Quetzaltenango still use Xela rather than Quetzaltenango to refer to the destination.

Artist’s Statement:
This is a vision of our people with the Grandmother Ixchel.  The moon is a woman who accompanies us and protects us.

Es una visión de nuestra gente sobre la abuela Ixchel.  La luna es una mujer que nos acompaña y nos protege.


Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Melodia de Paz
Melody of Peace, 2007


Oil on canvas


Marimba music is quintessentially Guatemalan. Paula strikingly depicts the marimba as a bird. The musicality of one suggests the other. This is an old style marimba where the sound chambers below the keyboard are made of tecomates (gourds) rather than being constructed by a carpenter from wood like a modern marimba. The legs of the marimba are shaped like trunks of trees. The roots are visible growing deep into the soil, alluding to music being rooted in the earth and in Maya tradition.
The woman in the painting wears the traje (traditional attire) of Nahualá, a Kaqchikel Maya town in the department of Sololá. Many huipiles and tzutes (blouses and scarves) of Nahualá feature stylized images of birds and animals. Paula Nicho, who is also an accomplished weaver, has given the marimba the form of a stylized bird similar to those in weavings from Nahualá. The squared spiral designs emanating from the tail of the bird (both in the painting and in Nahualá weavings) are similar to designs that appear on ancient Maya temples and pottery.
In the sky above the marimba fly two blue and white birds that symbolize peace. On the ground in front of the marimba, the smoke of incense can be seen rising from a bowl. In the smoke appear ghostly images of birds rising up to the sky, seemingly becoming real birds on the way. From the mouth of the marimba-bird the word paz (peace) floats into the sky. Just above the words are two small birds. Are they at a distance, or have the words of peace been transformed into birds?

Artist’s Statement:
When I listen to the marimba I hear the voices of our ancestors, which calm me, make me feel serene.  They fill me with peace and I feel free like the sound of the birds or the aroma of the incense which rises at dawn.

Cuando escucho la marimba oigo las voces de nuestros antepasados, que me calman, me serenan, me llenan de paz.  Me siento libre como el sonido de las aves o el aroma del incienso que se eleva al amanecer.

Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

Nana Luna / Grandmother Moon, 2002

Oil on canvas



Artist’s Statement:  
“Grandmother Ix” -- Is this correct painting?

The energy of Ix is invoking the sun.  Ix is the energy of women.  It also represents strength, determination, and the jaguars.  Ix is the mother earth that we celebrate with dances, flowers, and candles.

La energía Ix está invocando al sol.  Ix es la energía de las mujeres.  Tambien representa la fuerza, determinación y los jaguars.  Ix es la madre tierra que celebramos con bailes, danzas, flores y velas.

Paula Nicho Cúmez
Kaqchikel Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 1956

No Más Dolor / No More Pain, 2017

Oil on canvas


Artist’s Statement:  
Every time a wildfire occurs, Mother Earth suffers with much pain.  The fire respects no living thing, not the trees and flowers that are growing.  To say, “No more pain!” is to protest the lack of awareness of all the children of Mother Nature, who do not awaken to the suffering of our mother, the one who nourishes us and welcomes us in her womb.

Cada vez que se da un incendio forestal, la madre tierra sufre con mucho dolor, el fuego  no  respeta  a  todos  los  seres  vivos,  árboles  y  flores  que  están  creciendo.  Decir no más dolor es manifestar la falta de consciencia de todos y todas las y los hijos de la  madre naturaleza, que no despertamos ante el sufrimiento de nuestra madre, quien nos alimenta y nos acoge en su vientre.
Paula Nicho Cúmes

I come from a family of very limited means.  My papá worked in the fields, where he grew corn, beans, and vegetables.  He always brought us with him to the field to work.  I’m grateful to my mamá, who taught me to weave ever since I was very little, and this is how we daughters learned this art.  From this experience I learned about the combination of colors and different forms.  Later, I had the good fortune to meet Salvador, my husband, who encouraged me to do something different.  At that time in San Juan Comalapa, only men were painters.  And so I searched for my own style.

Before me there was a generation of women painters who were the daughters of the first Maya painters.  I am part of a second generation that came up, and together we formed a group of women painters.  Each of us had a specialty, and our own individual style.  So it became known that in Comalapa there was a group of women painters, and that it was no longer just men.  This has been quite a struggle right up to the present day, but we all—men and women alike—have the right to dedicate ourselves to art.

During the 1970s and 80s we were faced with difficult situations in life.  We could no longer go out to work in the field [due to the armed conflict].  Thus we began to paint in a group and then we went to exhibitions in different galleries in Guatemala City.  However, my compañeras didn’t want to change their style.  They continued to paint landscapes, still lifes, and primitivism—which are still the themes that the men paint.
I like to experience the life of women as workers, because every being, man or woman, carries his or her own history.  Music, as well, is a medium of inspiration.  And nature inspires me to create works, as do my cosmovision or world view, and my culture.

In my community many people see me as different because of the themes I choose and my way of painting a work, but I like to do things in my own way.  I paint for love of art, and my paintings are not commercial.  I am mindful that the Creators have given me a lot of energy, and that is what I infuse into my works.  

Paula Nicho Cúmes

Vengo de una familia de escasos recursos.  Mi papá fue un trabajador del campo.  Cultivaba maíz, frijol, y hortalizas.  Él siempre nos llevó al campo para trabajar.  Agradezco a mi mamá que desde pequeña me enseñó a tejer, y aprendimos ese arte.  De ahí conocí la combinación de colores y distintas formas.  Luego, tuve la dicha de conocer a Salvador, mi esposo, quien me motivo a hacer algo diferente, porque en Comalapa solo los hombres pintaban.  Entonces busqué un estilo propio.

Antes de mí había una generación de dos mujeres pintoras que eran hijas de los primeros pintores.  Luego surgió una segunda generación donde estoy yo.  Con ellas conformamos un grupo de pintoras.  Cada una tuvo una especialidad y un estilo propio.  De ahí la gente supo que en Comalapa había un grupo de mujeres que pintaban y ya no eran solo hombres.  Esa fue una lucha muy grande hasta hoy día, pues todos tenemos el derecho de dedicarnos al arte.

En la década de los 70s y 80s nos enfrentamos a diversas situaciones en la vida.  Ya no pudimos salir a trabajar al campo.  Entonces empezamos a pintar en grupo, luego salimos a exponerse en distintos espacios de la capital de Guatemala.  Pero mis compañeras no quisieron cambiar su estilo.  Ellas se quedaron con el paisaje, bodegones y primitivismo, los cuales son todavía los temas que los hombres pintan.

Me gusta experimentar la vida de las mujeres como trabajadoras porque cada ser, hombre o mujer, carga su propia historia.  La música también es un medio de inspiración.  La naturaleza me provoca crear obras, pero también mi cosmovisión y mi cultura.

En mi comunidad muchas personas me miran diferente, por los temas y la forma de pintar una obra, pero a mí me gusta hacer cosas distintas.  Hago pintura por amor al arte, y mis pinturas no son comerciales.  Estoy consciente que los creadores me han dado mucha energía, y es lo que plasmo en las obras.

Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Consagración del maíz  /  Blessing of the Corn, 2005

Oil on canvas


The villagers of San Pedro la Laguna share a communion of atol (corn gruel) in the ritual blessing of the seed corn (maize).  In some Maya communities, small human figures made of cornmeal are consumed, rather than atol.
 
The Maya call themselves "Men of Corn," recognizing their essential relationship to this staple crop. This ceremony is carried out before the first rains, in May, the first month of the new year, to bless the carefully selected seed corn that will be sown in the hillside cornfields.


Artist's Statement:
We Maya carry in our blood the knowledge of corn. I remember when my mother was pregnant with my brother, my grandmother prepared for her different types of atol, such as maatz, q'utuuj, ch'aroon, etc. She also prepared a variety of tortillas for her to eat, in the different colors of corn, such as white, yellow, red, and black. She also made tamalitos with the herb chipilín, tamalitos with beans, plain tamalitos, etc. This is why I put men of corn in this painting: because we go along from our mother's womb until our death working on the harvest of corn.

Los habitantes del municipio de San Pedro la Laguna comparten a una comunión de atol (sopa de maíz) en la bendición ritual del maíz semilla. Casi no hay niños presentes, y las caras solemnes de los adultos reflejan el carácter sagrado del ritual.

Los mayas se llaman 'Hombres de maíz,' reconociendo su relación esencial a este cultivo. Esta ceremonia se lleva a cabo antes de las primeras lluvias en el primer mes del año nuevo, generalmente en mayo. El rito es para bendecir el maíz de semilla cuidadosamente seleccionada que se sembraron en las milpas.

En algunas comunidades mayas, se consumen pequeñas figuras humanas hechas de harina de maíz, en lugar de atol. (Ver: Maria Elena Curruchiche, "Abuelita Ixmucane" / "Grandmother Ixmucane".)

Declaración del Artista:
Nosotros los mayas llevamos en la sangre lo que es el maíz. Me recuerdo cuando mi madre estaba embarazada de mi hermano, mi abuela le preparaba una variación de atol, como el maatz, q'utuuj, ch'aroon, etc. También preparaba variedad de tortillas en diferentes colores como el blanco, el amarillo, colorado, y los negritos para comer. También hizo tamalitos de chipilín, tamalitos con frijoles, tamalitos simple, etc. Por esta razón yo le puse hombres de maíz a esta pintura: porque traemos desde el embarazo hasta que morimos trabajando sobre la cosecha de maíz.

 


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Maltioxineem / Consagración de los Ninos
 Blessing of the Children, 2004


Oil on canvas


Maya parents wearing the traditional dress of many different villages have brought their newborns and young children to a sacred place near San Pedro la Laguna to be blessed, and thus received into the community. A priest and priestess from Chichicastenango officiate, along with another priestess from San Juan Sacatepequez. The musicians and their little boy are from Sololá.

Artist's Statement:

Maltioxineem means "Gratitude to God". Our Tz'utuhil and Kaqchikel ancestors or grandparents believed in the Ajaw, the Lord of the Sky and the Earth. This painting shows the presentation of children to the Ajaw in a ceremony similar to Christian baptism, at which the Maya priest, or Ajq'iij, officiated. For this occasion the Maya of different villages, wearing their distinctive traditional clothing and speaking different indigenous Maya languages, gathered together at a sacred location where ceremonies, healings, and other rites were performed. This occurred in the summertime during the Maya new year. The ceremony involved mostly newborns, but sometimes older children. At the end of the presentation of the children, the parents held a big fiesta because now the child was part of the family, part of the community, and recognized by the Lord of the Sky and the Earth.

Today this type of ceremony is not seen very often; however, we are rescuing our Maya culture, especially our religion. Catholic or evangelical Christian baptism is seen more frequently, in their respective churches. The largest remaining ceremonial site for San Pedro is a place called Chi kaqajaay . Unfortunately, the Catholics have divided it in half and now there is a small modern building containing a statue of the Virgin, where they say Mass every week. The other half is used for Maya ceremonies. Two more small sites still exist, which are used for various rituals. Some of our traditional ritual sites have disappeared, but these three still exist.
Maya Traditional Dress (Traje)
Why is there a Maya priest from Chichicastenango at this ceremony in San Pedro la Laguna? According to my grandfather, people would invite a priest from a different village whenever possible. Nowadays, when they have a priest from the same village that is sponsoring the ceremony, people from villages near and far will take advantage of the opportunity to present their newborn babies to the Ajaw. Parents also take advantage of the opportunity to present their young children, if need be. This is why the painting shows many different types of traditional dress, because the people come from different villages.



 

A    San Pedro la Laguna
B    Chichicastenango
C     Sololá
D    San Juan la Laguna
E    Nahualá
F    San Juan Sacatepequez
G    Huehuetenango
H    San Lucas Tolimán
I      Santiago Atitlán
J     Santa Cruz la Laguna

* The indicated people are priests/priestesses.

Note: All the people in the background are from different villages, such as Santa Clara, San Pablo, Panajachel, etc.

Padres mayas vistiendo en el vestido tradicional de muchos pueblos diferentes han traído a sus recién nacidos y chiquitos a un lugar sagrado cerca de San Pedro la Laguna para ser benditos, y así recibidos en la comunidad. Un sacerdote y una sacerdotisa de Chichicastenango realizan el rito, junto con otra sacerdotisa de San Juan Sacatepequez. Los músicos y su niño son de Sololá.
Declaración del Artista:

Maltioxineem significa "Gratitud a Dios". Nuestros antepasados o abuelos Tz'utujiles y Qaqchiqueles creían en el Ajaw, que significa "Dios del Cielo y de la Tierra". La obra es una presentación de niños ante el Ajaw. Esto lo hacía un Ajq'iij, que significa en español sacerdote maya. Es como hace la iglesia católica actualmente, que bautizan a los niños y a los bebés recién nacidos. También los evangélicos practican el bautismo con los nińos ya grandes y adultos. La diferencia es que lo hacen reuniendo a los nińos de cada pueblo con sus distintos trajes e idiomas. Se reúnen en el verano durante el nuevo año maya, en un lugar sagrado en donde se realizan ceremonias, ritos, curaciones. Al terminar esta presentación los padres de familia hacen una gran fiesta, porque el niño ya es parte de la familia, miembro de la comunidad, y reconocido por el Ajaw.

Actualmente se ve muy pocos que realizan este tipo de ceremonia, porque estamos rescatando nuestra cultura maya, especialmente nuestra religión. Se ve más el bautismo de las religiones católicos y evangélicos en sus respectivas iglesias cristianas. El sitio ceremonial cerca de San Pedro es un lugar que se llama Chi kaqajaay. Es el sitio más grande que existe todavía. Lamentablemente los católicos lo dividieron en dos: actualmente hay un pequeño edificio moderno en donde está una virgen y realizan misa cada semana. La otra mitad se use para ceremonias mayas. Hay otros dos más, pero son pequeños y se utilizan actualmente para cualquier ceremonia. Se desaparecieron algunos, pero sí existen tres todavía.       

   
Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

La comadrona  /  The Midwife, 1996

Oil on canvas


A midwife is helping a woman to bring a child into the world.  The husband is watching anxiously, and the couple’s parents are in attendance.

Maya midwives preserve knowledge of medicinal herbs and traditional healing practices.

Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Valor a la Madre Tierra  /  Respect to Mother Earth, 2012

Oil on canvas 15" x 13." PR-224
Arte Maya Tz’utuhil

A couple gives thanks to Mother Earth for all that she has provided them.


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Purificación del Alma / Purification of the Soul   2007

Oil on canvas   24" x 20." PR-188.
Arte Maya Tz’utuhil

A couple.


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Madre angustiada  /  Anguished Mother, 2006

Oil on canvas


A woman has broken the stone pestle with which she grinds corn.  According to Tz’utuhil folklore, she is about to lose her husband.  Without his support, this mother of eight fears that her children will go hungry.  To prevent the coming calamity, she can go to a Maya priest and organize a ritual for the man.

La piedra de moler de esta mujer se quebró.  Según la creencia Tz'utuhil, está a punto de perder a su esposo. Sin su apoyo, esta madre de ocho niños teme que sus hijos mueran de hambre. Para prevenir tal calamidad, ella puede consultar a un sacerdote Maya y organizar un ritual para el hombre.


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Ati’it— La Abuela Luna y las mujeres
Grandmother Moon and the Women, 2010


Oil on canvas


In Maya culture, women have a special relationship to the moon.  Here, the women are honoring the goddess, Grandmother Ixchel.  Perhaps they are making a petition for fertility.  

Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Día de Ceremonias en Chichicastenango
Day of Ceremonies in Chichicastenango,  1998


Oil on canvas      36" x 57." Cat. PR-064   
Arte Maya Tz’utuhil

The Spanish conquerors built Catholic churches on top of existing Maya temple sites.  Today, Maya spiritual guides conduct traditional ceremonies on the church steps, or even inside the church.        

    
Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Lluvias de Gracia  /  Showers of Grace

Oil on canvas
Arte Maya Tz’utuhil

The community give thanks to gods for the rain they have received, and let the gods know it is enough!


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Rkuux way  /  Women’s Energy  2015

Oil on canvas
Gift from the Artist

Artist’s Statement:  This is an invocation to Mother Earth to achieve the feeling of the four energies of the four cardinal points. Thus we hope to achieve the balance and the spirituality of peace, heat, strength and health for the life of human beings. This is represented by the four women and the four energies of life, accompanied by Grandmother Moon. The candles of the four colors represent the four cardinal points. The incense or fire that appears is the pleasant scent offered to Mother Earth to attain spirituality and energy.

Declaración del Artista:  Este es una convocación a la Madre Tierra para lograr el sentir de las cuatro energías de los cuatro puntos cardinales.  Así esperamos lograr el equilibro y la espiritualidad de paz, calor, fuerza y salud de la vida para el ser humano.  Es representado por las cuatro mujeres y cuatro energías de la vida y acompañada por la Abuela Luna. Las cuatro candelas de color, es la representación de los cuatro puntos.  El incienso o fuego que aparece es el olor agradable a la Madre Tierra para lograr la  espiritualidad y la energía.


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Qa ch’aakuul qa b’ach’iil / Nuestro Patrimonio Cultural
Our Cultural Patrimony, 2014


Oil on canvas


The Maya call themselves “Men of Corn,” recognizing this precious food as the staff of life.

Los mayas se llaman "hombres de maíz", reconociendo este alimento sagrado como la base esencial de la vida.


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Akqkiij / Sacerdota Maya  /  Maya Priest, 2002

Oil on canvas


Because women are considered closer than men to Mother Earth, it is said that some rituals are more effective when performed by a woman priest.


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

La voz de nuestra cultura  /  The Voice of Our Culture
2014

Oil on canvas


This painting has two names, one in Tz’utuhil Mayan (Aj Tz’unun Ya’), and one in Spanish. They mean different things, but together signify more than either one separately.

The pre-Hispanic settlement on the site of San Pedro was named Tz’ununya. Translated into English this would mean hummingbird (tz’unun) by the lake (ya). There is a Kaqchikel town across the lake called Tz’ununa, but this is a post conquest name for that settlement, and not the town the artist was referring to. Aj is an article signifying a person in the Tz’utuhil language so it makes the title into “The senorita from the place of the hummingbird by the lake.”

What does La voz de Nuestra Cultura (the voice of our culture) add to the Tz’utuhil title? Rafael sees the Maya culture, which changed very little in the previous centuries, being inundated by rapid changes brought on by increased contact with the rest of the world through cell phones, computers, automobiles, and television. Most of this has happened in the last twenty-five years. Cheap US style clothing is eroding the use of traditional Maya traje especially among the men. Then, in this painting Rafael is looking towards women as the guardians of the Maya culture. The women still wear their traditional huipiles, cortes and perrajes, (blouses, skirts, and shawls). Their use, instead of fading out in recent years, has grown stronger. The flowers represent the unique beauty of Maya traditions—traditions which if they disappear will be a loss to not only the Maya but all humanity. The candle the woman is solemnly carrying represents the Maya culture. In the painting, it is not a strong flame, and seems on the verge of being extinguished. Hopefully, that will not happen to the Maya traditions and culture which have endured through Conquest and well past it to the present.


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Hijos del Sol  /  Children of the Sun, 2010

Oil on canvas
 

Mothers present their newborn children to the sun.

Las madres presentan a sus hijos recién nacidos al sol.

Courtesy of Sheila Couch Collection


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Hombres de Maíz  / Men of Corn , 1996

Oil on canvas
 

The Maya call themselves “men of corn,” recognizing their dependence on this sacred crop as the staff of life.  

Los mayas se llaman "hombres de maíz,” reconociendo su dependencia de este cultivo sagrado como el bastón de la vida.


Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1956

Nawal Ixim / Diosa del Maiz / Goddess of Corn   2012

Oil on canvas       15" x 13" PR-223
Arte Maya Tz’utuhil

A Maya family performs a ritual honoring the spirit of the corn, who appears to them in the smoke of the copal incense.

Salvador Cúmez Curuchich
Kakchiquel Maya
San Juan Comalapa, b. 19xx

Altar Tzi’ / Los Nawales
Altar of the Dog / The Guardian Spirits     2015-2018


Oil on Canvas


This painting expresses the power of the nahuales, which are…

Artist’s Statement:  
Maya priests are guides and observers of the movements of fire.  Only they can see the manifestations of spirits that respond and become present due to the call that is made to them in prayer.  This is how they are able to appear in the nahuales or in spirits.  They are always invited at the Tzi’ altar, so that they can come near and speak through the fire.

Los  sacerdotes  mayas son  guías y observadores de los  movimientos del  fuego, solo ellos pueden ver las manifestaciones de los espíritus que se hacen presentes por el llamado que se les  hace en oración,  para que así logren  aparecer en los nahuales o en espíritus, ellos siempre son  invitados  en el altar Tzi´ para que se acerquen y hablen a través del fuego.

Note: Tzi’ means dog, or wolf (Francisco Icala)


Salvador Cúmez Curuchich
Kakchiquel Maya
San Juan Comalapa, b. 19xx

Power of the Guardian Spirits (Nahuales), 20xx

Oil on Canvas


This painting expresses the power of the nahuales, which are…


Samuel Cumes Pop
Father, Kakchiquel Maya
Mother, Tz’utuhil Maya
San Pedro la Laguna, b. 1960

Metamorfosis  /  Metamorphosis, 2017

Watercolor and pastel on paper


An indigenous woman is caught between cultures.  She is split between her traditional Maya clothing and cosmovision, versus the dress and values of the external Ladino culture.  Immigrants to the United States often have to face these painful contradictions.


Uriela Rosalia Cúmez Curuchich
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Juan Comalapa, b. 19xx / 200x

Nan Imox, 20xx

Oil on canvas


Artist’s Statement:  This painting shows the power of the grandmothers and grandfathers, who coexist in the essence of the waters, rivers, lakes and streams.  This is also the hidden force of the universe that transcends in order to revitalize us.  Our grandmothers, our spiritual guides, have always used the power of water to purify us, to saturate us and heal us.  Every time they use this element of nature in their prayers to ask for balance in our lives, they heal with the essence of water.  They are the ones who maintain the peace and tranquility in our spirit.

Declaración de la Artista:  Es la  fuerza  de las  abuelas y abuelos, que cohabitan en la  esencia de las  aguas, ríos,  lagos  y  riachuelos,  también  es la  fuerza  oculta del universo que trasciende para  revitalizarnos.  Nuestras  abuelas,  nuestras  guías  espirituales  siempre  han utilizado la fuerza del agua para purificarnos, saturarnos y curarnos, cada vez que ellas usan este elemento de la naturaleza en sus oraciones para pedir el equilibrio en nuestras vidas,  ellas curan  con la  esencia del agua, son las  que mantiene la paz y la calma en nuestro espíritu.


Vicenta Puzul de González
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna

Tuc de mujeres  /  Women’s Steambath, 2007

Oil on canvas


In this intimate scene, a woman who has just given birth is being cared for in the warm and humid atmosphere of the steam bath.  The comadrona (midwife) is massaging her back, and they are accompanied by the woman’s friends, or apprentices of the midwife.  All are wearing the traje of Sololá.

The western highlands of Guatemala are quite cold, and many families have a small structure in which to take a steam bath.  A new mother comes there for 40 days, to remove toxins or impurities from her body.  During this time she can only take a sponge bath.  She must not eat “cold” things such as cheese or avocados, because that might affect the milk for the baby.  She receives back massages for her lungs, and special abdominal massages to help her womb recover.  

The first Tz’utuhil Maya woman to paint in oils, Vicenta learned from her husband, Mariano González Chavajay.

Vicenta Puzul de González
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna

Clamando por la Limpieza del Lago
Crying Out for the Cleansing of the Lake, 2010


Oil on canvas


Lake Atitlán is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It supplies drinking water to about 100,000 Maya people who live in the 15 villages that ring the lake.  Each year it is polluted with thousands of tons of sewage and trash each year.  The Guatemalan government has failed to effectively address this problem.

El Lago Atitlán es uno de los lagos más hermosos en el mundo.  Suministra agua potable a aproximadamente para 100,000 personas Mayas que viven en los 15 pueblos que rodean el lago. Cada año está contaminada con miles de toneladas de aguas residuales y basura, un problema que el gobierno guatemalteco ha fallado de tratar con eficacia.


Vicenta Puzul de González
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna

Traida de la Campana en el Cerro
Carrying the Church Bell Over the Mountain to San Pedro, 2008


Oil on canvas


Townspeople are carrying a huge church bell over the mountains to San Pedro la Laguna.

La gente del pueblo lleva una enorme campana de iglesia sobre las montañas hasta San Pedro la Laguna.


Victor Vazquez Temó
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Juan la Laguna, b. 1968

Fiesta de San Simón  /  Fiesta of San Simon , 2006

Oil on canvas,  25 x 38 in.
Loaned by Arte Maya Tz’utuhil Collection

The community carries Maximón in a procession…


Artist
Tz’utuhil Maya, San Pedro la Laguna, b. 19

Titulo  /  Title, 2xxx

Oil on canvas


Label text.









 

 

 

Pedro Rafael Gonzáles Chavajay

Las Huellas de Ayer y de Hoy / Footsteps of Yesterday and Today, 2001


Three panels, each 30” x 40”

The painting “Huellas de Ayer y Hoy” depicts the procession for the festival of San Pedro la Laguna, which takes place on the 24 of June, the day of the patron saint of San Pedro (Saint Peter).  The painting shows how the town and the procession would have looked in the middle of the twentieth century, a few years before Pedro Rafael was born. The division of the painting into three parts represents the disintegration of Maya traditions and culture since 1950. Each panel represents one part of Maya culture—pre-conquest traditions, the church, and government—that once worked together forming a unified whole, but now functions completely independently. One no longer sees a procession that contains at the same time the masked dances, the members of the municipal government, and the Catholic Church. Now the masked dancers perform in the streets by themselves, any procession contains only members of one religious denomination, and the municipality functions separately. The society of San Pedro is no longer a unified whole but three separate parts, each represented symbolically by one panel of the triptych.

Several images in the painting tell us that the painting depicts an earlier era. Anyone who has spent time living in San Pedro will recognized the boy with dark skin in the central panel of the painting. He is the only dark- skinned Maya in the community. Now an elderly man, he still can be seen working hard carrying loads of firewood and other objects up the steep hill on his back. Although his pants are old and tattered, he is one of a handful of men who still wear their traditional traje (native dress). His rose-colored shirt is distinctive, the only one I have seen of that color in the San Pedro style. The people in the painting, both in the procession and, more tellingly, of those watching the procession, all wear the traditional traje of San Pedro la Laguna. During the violence of the 1980s, most of the Maya men stopped wearing their traditional traje because the army could easily identify where they were from, a danger even for the innocent, which most of them were.  In 1940, most of houses in San Pedro were thatched, but over the next thirty years those houses disappeared. Very few adobe houses still remain in town, and no houses exist with thatched roofs. By now most of the trees that appear in the painting have been cut down. Parents divide their land in town between their often-numerous children who, in turn, build their own houses on that land before dividing it again among their children. The courtyards where the trees once grew are now filled with multi-storied houses in close proximity with each other.

The left panel of the triptych, “Las Huellas de Ayer y de Hoy,” shows dancers dressed as deer heading the procession. Pedro Rafael, realizing the visual importance of the dancers to the painting, has allowed the other dancers, dressed as tigers and monkeys, as well as the musician playing the marimba, to straggle over into the first half of the second panel.  This is artistic license and does not really detract from his concept of the triptych showing the fracturing of Maya society.

The dance depicted  is the Baile de Venado, or Deer Dance, but it could just as easily have been one of the other popular masked dances such as the Dance of the Conquest, the Dance of the Moors and the Christians, or the Little Bull. The Baile de Venado is one of the oldest of the dances, and has roots predating the Conquest.  Thomas Gage gives us the earliest known description of such a dance (Gage1648, 225-26):

It was the old dance which they used before they knew Christianity, except that then instead of singing the Saints’ lives, they did sing the praises of their heathen Gods. They have another dance much used, which is a kind of hunting out some wild beast ... in this dance they use much hollering and noise and calling one unto another, and speaking by way of stage play, some relating one thing, some another concerning the beast they hunt after. These dancers are all clothed like beasts, with painted skins of lions, tigers, or wolves, and on their heads such pieces as may represent the heads of eagles or fowls of rapine, and in their hands they have painted staves, swords and axes, wherewith they threaten to kill the beast they hunt after. The ancient Maya probably performed a deer dance before a hunt to ask for divine permission to kill the deer and for the safe return of the hunters.

After the conquest, many dances were forbidden by the Catholic Church because they were deemed heathen. The dances that did survive had to conform in some way. Performing the deer dance for the day of the patron saint of the town, in this case Saint Peter, and in the story dedicating the captured deer to Jesus made the dance nominally Christian. It allowed some ancient Maya beliefs and traditions to survive, somewhat adjusted, under the cloak of Christianity.  In other towns, the text of the Baile de Venado is different. In nearby Santiago Atitlán, it is the creation myth, while in San Pedro it is a story of the hunt. Fortunately, a written text exists of Baile de Venado as it was performed in San Pedro in the early part of the twentieth century.

At the beginning, the dancers line up in pairs before the marimba and introduce themselves. Not shown by Pedro Rafael in the painting, probably because of space considerations, are two (Spanish) captains, two shepherds, and an old man (shaman), his wife, and their two dogs.  Two captains want to trap a deer but do not know how to do the ritual benediction that will ensure success. To that end, they enter the forest to consult the shaman. The captains, being Spaniards (as opposed to Maya), scare the old woman who goes to alert her husband. The old man goes to attack them with his dogs, but shepherds explain to him that they want the benediction necessary to trap a deer to glorify Christ for the festival of San Pedro. The dialogue is in Tz’utuhil and would appear to us as tedious, but is occasionally joking:

Old Man: I don’t know how to do the benediction.

Captain: I will teach you. In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit for my sacred Jesus.

Old Man: Aha! Then in the name of my father and my mother and my two dogs. Amen.

With the proper rituals done, the old man goes off to hunt the deer. The deer are willing to give their lives to Christ because the blessings have been done, but a tiger also wants to kill them. The old man kills the tiger, captures the deer and gives his wife the antlers. The deer, the old man wearing a deerskin, and his dogs then dance together. They are joined by all the other dancers who gather in front of the marimba and dance giving a benediction to Jesus (Paret-Limardo 1963).

Because of the effort and expense, especially in the smaller towns, the masked dances usually are only performed during the festival of the town’s patron saint. The most elaborate and expensive of the dances is the Baile de Conquista, so in smaller towns, which San Pedro was at the time, the Baile de Venado was a popular alternative. Preparation for the dance began many months before the festival titular (town festival). The person responsible for the production of the dance was the director. The director is responsible for choosing which dance will be performed, who the dancers will be, and for gaining support and funding among the townspeople.  The rehearsals will be held at his house. This involves considerable expense as food and beverages are provided for the dancers.  The town would hire a dance master, although sometimes the director and dance master might be the same person.  The dance master would thoroughly know the dance so that he could teach the performers their dances and their lines. For this the dance master had to know how to read and write. He was owner and guardian of the script, which was used to teach the dancers, most of whom were illiterate, their lines. He also taught them the dance steps that go with each of their songs. Because the dance master is paid for his services, he carefully guards his manuscript. A dance master would probably train a son to inherit his position and pass on his manuscript to him. For a complicated dance like the Baile de Conquista, the dance master might come from another town and be the dance master of this dance in several communities (Bode 1961).

The masks and costumes are rented from a morería, an establishment peculiar to Guatemala. It is usually run by a family of talented mask-makers who pass down the business from generation to generation. When the time of the festival is approaching, the dance master and all of the members of the dance troupe travel to the morería to rent the costumes. Before the Pan American highway was constructed, this meant a walk of about two days each way to the town of Totonicapán, the nearest morería to San Pedro la Laguna.  As shown in the painting, the deer, in costumes rented from the morería, wear fanciful versions of the elaborate capes worn by the Spanish. These flashy costumes are often satin and decorated with sequins and bits of mirror. Undoubtedly, the ancient Maya dressed in the skins of deer for the dance. While dancers in some towns still wear deer skins, the dancers and spectators seem to prefer the costumes rented from the morerías. This is not surprising because the isolation of Maya towns meant the dances were the highlight of the year (Luján Muñoz 1987).

Once or twice before the performance, the dance troupe would go to a sacred place in the mountains, usually a cave, and have a shaman perform a ritual blessing so that the production would go well. During the ritual they would call on the four cardinal points, burning colored candles and incense, while offering sugar, cakes, and chocolate to the spirits of the earth, sky, and lake. Upon their return from the morería with their costumes, a last ritual would be performed in the mountains with much ritual drinking to induce a trance state, and then performed again in the church without the drinking.

The second and third panels of the triptych deal with the local government and the Catholic Church. The church and state of San Pedro and all other highland Maya towns at that time were intrinsically intertwined in a civil ceremonial system.  In the middle panel of the painting, the man between the two crosses is the mayor of the town. He carries in his hand a baton that is symbol of his office. Directly behind him we see the head of a man wearing a distinctive red tzute (head-scarf), which is an indication that he is one of the principales (high-ranking elders) of the town. In the third panel, the women singing are texeles (female members of the cofradía), followed by more principales with pom (incense) and carrying the image of Saint Peter, who has been removed from his niche in the church for the procession. The cofradías are in turn followed by members of the congregation.

Although Pedro Rafael depicts nearly sixty people in the whole procession, each person in the painting represents several individuals. Each of the town’s six cofradías would be represented in the procession, but were Pedro Rafael to show each of them, the painting would be thirty feet long instead of ten. The actual number of people in the procession would have been several times what Pedro Rafael can reasonably show.

In order to understand how the traditional Maya culture has broken apart, it is necessary to understand how it functioned over the centuries since the conquest. In the sixteenth century religious cofradías were introduced in Guatemala to help implement the Catholic faith. They quickly became popular. Because the cofradías were strictly segregated (the Spanish had their own cofradías in Antigua and Guatemala City), the Maya found that in a cofradía they could continue to perform many of their pre-conquest rituals in the name of a Christian saint. The Cofradía of Concepción was established in San Pedro on January 7, 1613 (Orellana 1984). To put that in a historical perspective, the first known cofradía was established in San Pedro 163 years before the United States became independent from England.

When I first arrived in San Pedro in the 1980s the cofradías had already disappeared, but anthropologist Benjamin D. Paul arrived in 1940 while the civil ceremonial system was still strong and the cofradías still active. He says, (Paul 1989, 1) it “...was a marvel to behold. The product of countless years of operation, its organization was intricate and neatly articulated. And it served a host of significant functions for the individual and the community.” Under the cofradía system, about every four years men were expected to devote all or part of their time to public service. The terms, which lasted for a year, would alternate between the church and the municipal government of the town. During the year of service, their responsibilities would be handled by other family members, so they could devote themselves to the needs of their office. As a person aged, he served in positions of greater importance, and with these positions came greater respect from the community.

Cofradía is a Spanish word that implies brotherhood, but both the cofradías and the civil government operate on a system that would better be called fatherhood. As Ben Paul explained to me many times, in the Tz’utuhil language, if one is a male, there is no single term for one’s brothers. There is a term for one’s older brothers, and another word for one’s younger brothers, and a word for one’s sisters. Likewise, if one is a girl, there is a word for one’s older sisters and another for one’s younger sisters, and word for one’s brothers. The language helps establish a hierarchy, one does what one’s older brother commands, and also denotes a separation between male and female roles. This strict hierarchy also exists in the civil government and the cofradías; i.e. the cofradías have a ranking of importance in relation to each other, and the members of each cofradía have a ranking within that cofradía.  (Paul  1989)

On the civil side, Ben Paul counted 35 positions, among them alcalde (mayor), five regidores (councilmen), a síndico, a policia, first and second mayores (constables), interpretes (people who spoke both Tz’utuhil and Spanish), twelve alguaciles (errand men) and twelve regidores auxiliares who rowed the large wooden municipal canoe that went daily between San Pedro and Santiago Atitlán (Paul 1989). The alcalde would be chosen by the town’s principales—men of the village who were present or past heads of the six different cofradías. This system in which the alcalde was chosen by people who had served in the religious cofradías kept the government of the town and the church intertwined.

There were six cofradías in San Pedro. Each cofradía revered a particular saint. At the head of each cofradía, was a cofrade, whose assistant was called a juez, five mayordomos, and three unmarried women called texeles. An image of the saint was kept on an altar in a separate room in the house of the cofrade. It was the duty of the cofradía to keep the fresh flowers on the altar, and keep the floor covered with pine needles. The texeles ground castor oil beans from which they obtained an oil that was kept perpetually lit on the altar. During the year, the cofradía would be responsible for a festival honoring their saint. Each cofradía was responsible for one day of the week. They would be responsible for burying anybody in the community who died on that day. All these expenses, which were considerable, would fall on the cofrade.

In the 1940s General Jorge Ubico introduced military training to the Maya towns. One result was that young men who went away to serve in the military would refuse for a time to do servicio in the civil-ceremonial system of the town when they returned. Then, in between the 1950s and 1970s, Protestantism began attracting significant numbers of Maya. These Maya began refusing to participate in the Catholic cofradías, although they would still perform their civil duties. During the 1950s when liberal Areval-Arbenz was president before being deposed by a CIA coup, it was decreed that the mayor and other town officials would be elected by popular vote. Ben Paul observes “At first this made little difference; the town was willing to confirm the slate proposed by the principales in accordance with custom. But in time, competition between rival political parties arose, with the result that elected officers were no longer part of a unified civil-ceremonial hierarchy.” Protestantism attracted many Maya because it opposed drinking. Ritual drinking had been a part of the cofradías since their inception. Just as in other small Maya towns, there had been no resident priest since the previous century, but only a visiting priest and local Maya who performed the services. Catholic Action began sending resident priests in hope of reforming the church enough to keep members from leaving. Ben Paul observes (Paul 1996, 4):

The death blow to the weakened cofradías came in 1970, when the then resident priest, a Carmelite from Navarre, excoriated cofradía members from drinking in church on Sunday, as they had done ceremonially from time immemorial, and denied them various customary privileges. In effect, the were excommunicated.

San Pedro once had a unified face it presented to the world. In the civil-ceremonial system the townspeople had a well-established way of gaining respect as they progressed through life. If they earned the title of principale by the end of their lives, people would kiss their hands as a token of respect. The church and the government functioned together as part of a whole. Now, besides the Catholic Church, there are scores of fundamentalist Christian churches in town. Even in families considered progressive, children had been disowned by switching from one church to another. The competition of political parties during elections had become rancorous, and occasionally violence resulted during the election process. The unified Tz’utuhil Maya society has broken into the three separate parts represented by the three panels of Pedro Rafael’s painting: the masked dance, representing the pre-conquest Maya heritage, the government, and the Christian religion.

Palo Volador
[Dance of the Pole Flyers]
Matías González Chavajay
1990. 28” x 19”

In this painting Matías Gonzalez Chavajay depicts a festival where dancers perform a traditional masked dance. The central event of this masked dance, the palo volador, is not a dance but an acrobatic event on an exceedingly tall pole. Matías presents a fanciful interpretation of his memory of the event, rather than an exact painted record

of the festival. Matías fudges on the physics involved—the angle the voladores descend at, how they hold the rope at arm’s length—to make the voladores look as if they are actually flying. This, coupled with the fact that the voladores are dressed as angels, imbues the event with a magical aspect absent from other paintings about the voladores. The Palo Volador is performed both in Vera Cruz area of Mexico and in Guatemala. Demetrio Sodi describes1 the Mexican version (Sodi :

El Volador (The Birdman) is one of the most spectacular dances.... It is one of the most authentically preserved from pre-Hispanic times, although the costumes now reflect a European influence. Five men are chosen to perform the dance. In the past, the dancers dressed as eagles or other birds. One is the captain and four take the roles of birdmen. A tall, strong, straight tree is stripped of its branches and bark and set upright in the main square of the town. A wooden cylinder is attached to the top of the trunk, with a frame from which hang the four ropes to which the birdmen are tied. The captain stands on top of the cylinder, playing a drum and flute, and dances, turning to the four corners of the universe. Then the four birdmen, tied by their ankles and hanging head down, slowly descend. The number of circles they turn before touching the earth varies, but in pre-Hispanic times, and even now on certain occasions, they circled thirteen times. The number of turns multiplied by the four birdmen equals the number of years of the pre-Hispanic calendar: fifty-two, divided by four thirteen-year periods. El Volador undoubtedly has an intimate relation to worship of the sun. The captain who turns toward the cardinal points and the birdmen dressed as eagles (birds of the sun), make this clear.

To ensure the success of the dance and the safety of the voladores, a Maya shaman performs a ceremony when the tree for the pole is selected, cut, and transported to the town. In an act that carries over from practices of the ancient Maya, a live rooster is sacrificed by placing him in the pole hole and erecting the pole on top of him. 

1. Vazquez, Pedro Ramiro, editor. Demetio Sodi & others. The National Museum of Anthropology MEXICO. New York, Abrams, 1968.