Santiago means St. James. One of the original Apostles, he was revered in Spain as a warrior-saint who aided the Spanish in their re-conquest of their European Peninsula from the Muslim Moors, as well as in their subsequent conquest of the New World. The second part of the name, Atitlán, is a Nahuatl word, imported by the Aztec mercenary soldiers brought down to Guatemala by conquistador Pedro Alvarado after the destruction of their empire. The word means: "place where the rainbow gets its colors." The original Maya name was dropped.
isolated from the outside world. There were few roads and many bandits. A journey that can be accomplished in a few hours today took as much as a week, traveling on foot with line of packed burros. To travel from one part of the lake to another, people nearly always used boats. In spite of the new roads, this is still largely true.
Parroquia Santiago Apostol
Semana Santa (literally "Saints' Week", otherwise known as Easter Week). They are paraded around town, along with many of the other statues we have seen. The fiestas and parades contain the same fascinating mixture of Catholicism and ancient Maya beliefs that you will find throughout Guatemala.
Santiago's ordeal occurred primarily between the years 1980 and 1990. On January 6, 1980, 10 local men were massacred as they worked in their fields just outside Santiago by Guatemalan military forces. This was followed by countless death threats, disappearances, and assassinations. These were so common that people often sought refuge in the Parroquia at night rather than stay in their own homes. This drew the attention of the authorities to Father Rother, who was then assassinated. People in town were so grateful for Rother's brave actions that they asked that his heart and blood remain in the parish where they are buried in a martyrs' monument. The killing went on until December 1990 when 13 people were shot to death just outside a local military base where they went as part of a peaceful protest against the abuses. This time, the press coverage finally caused international attention to focus on the atrocities. The military was forced to withdraw from the area, and several years later the Civil War reached a negotiated end. Not long after the military withdrawal, local people discovered a nearby mass grave, but the military threatened to return if the digging continued. The local people stopped, but left the open hole as a further monument and reminder of this dark time. To this day, military establishments are forbidden in the Lake Atitlán area.
This concludes the first part of my posting on Santiago Atitlán. Next week we will take a look at the main plaza and the markets of the town. I always appreciate hearing from my viewers. If you would like to leave a comment, please either use the Comments section below, or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim