The Mayan people, Panajachel, Guatemala


Mayan woman from Nebaj
     Fishermen and photographers both tell stories about the one that got away. This is mine.

     This is a woman from Nebaj, a small, isolated village, high in the mountains of northern Guatemala. The people of Nebaj suffered unspeakable horrors during the 36 year genocide, now referred to as the "civil war". The indigenous call it simply "the troubles".

     This woman awoke one morning and decided that someone had put a powerful curse on her, and she had to do something to get rid of it. She met with a shaman and they performed a ceremony. That ceremony produced some ashes, which she put in this special ceramic vessle and took them to Lake Atitlan for disposal.

     As she turned from the lake she saw me and my camera neaby. She approached and asked me if I would help her by taking her picture. While I fiddled with the camera, she told me this story about the exorcism. Then she explained that the gods were both stupid and lazy, and that she was wearing her huipil (blouse) inside out, to trick the demons into leaving her body. She thought the camera would help to scare them away.

     I took 3 photos. She shook my hand and wispered "thank you" in my ear. As she stepped away she flashed the most dazzling ear-to-ear smile. All her teeth were edged with gold, and the 6 most prominent ones were inlaid with either crescent moons or stars, of the same material. This was an excellent example of an ancient Mayan art. In the blink of an eye, I missed the shot of a lifetime! The one that got away....