Maya Festival Celebrating San Francisco de Asis – Guatemala

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The fireworks, the color and noise is intense. Exciting.

Amid this Maya-flavored festival for Saint Francis – or in Spanish: San Francisco de Asis – I stand with crowds of Maya admiring the spectacle.

I’m in Panajachel, on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, and it’s early October, with the main day of the festival held today, on the 4th.

celebrations with statue of saint francis in maya festival in guatemala
When the statue of Saint Francis arrived – amid much fireworks and fanfare – the religious aspect of the ceremony began.

This festival celebrates Saint Francis of Assisi – as most Maya in Guatemala today are Catholic.

And while performers’ masks are distinctively European, the local Maya also infuse their own traditions and colors into this festival.

San Francisco de Asis statue being carried into church by Mayan men
After parading around the Saint Francis statue, it carried inside the church.
maya women pray at festival in guatemala
Offerings, prayers, candles, pine-incense; the serious part of the festival.
maya leaders in traditionla clothes at festival of San Francisco de Asis
Maya chiefs gather on the steps of the church once the statue is inside.
performers at San Francisco de Asis festival
Once the statue was inside and religious ceremonies finished – the carnival really begun with all sorts of costumed dancers.
masked performers San Francisco de Asis festival in guatemala
This could be scenes from a European carnival … but it’s Guatemala!

I was staying some months on the opposite side of the Lake Atitlan in the town of San Pedro, so I came over for the main day celebrations of the San Francisco de Asis Festival.

festival of San Francisco de Asis
The masks get weirder. These are men parading as Mayan women.

The Festival of San Francisco de Asis was a day of fireworks, carnival performances, fairground rides, shack stalls, and solid drinking.

mask of performer at San Francisco de Asis festival in guatemala
Cowboys hats and European Carnival masks amid the festivities.
colorful mayan clothing guatemala
The amazing colors and patterns of Maya clothing in Guatemala.

And strangely, I saw no other Westerners present. I stayed over that evening, drinking long into the night with young Mayan men.

Travels in Guatemala – 2009


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