2015 - 2017
Panajachel, Sololá, Guatemala; San Pedro La Laguna, Sololá, Guatemala
Lake Atitlán is a volcanic lake in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range. In the Nahuatl language Atitlán means "between the waters." Surrounded by three volcanoes, there are many villages and towns on the lake shore, wherein Mayan culture is prevalent and traditional customs are still seen. The Maya people of Atitlán are predominantly Tz'utujil and Kaqchikel.
Certain towns, like San Pedro la Laguna and Panajachel, are more open to tourism than others and are home to a unique blend of Mayans, Guatemalan (non-Mayan) locals, travelers, and expats from all over the world. It is admirable to see how these diverse people coexist with each other, but especially to how Mayans remain predominant. On any given day, one could hear several languages, but Tzutujil, a Mayan language, is especially common. They also try to adapt to the fast changes of their towns, mainly by selling food or products in the streets to the visitors. Still, the Mayans tend to keep to themselves, perhaps wanting to protect their traditions
Unfortunately, it is becoming more obvious that their customs are being lost, especially among younger generations. We all crave a sense of belonging, and it is harder for the newer generations of mayans to find it in this modern world. Even with so much influence from other cultures, women of all ages usually maintain their traditional garments, in contrast to men, who are so often seen in jeans, t-shirts and baseball caps. This makes it even more special to see an old mayan man, dressed with the traditional white pants and embroidery shirt, walking up the steep streets with a huge bundle of wood strapped to his head.
These images are a reminder that despite modern pressures and common misconceptions, the Mayan culture is still alive, hopefully for a long time.
"Mayab Ixiim Uleew" (the album title) means "Mayan Guatemala" in the Tzutujil language.