Mayab Ixiim Uleew - PhMuseum

Mayab Ixiim Uleew

Cristina Erdmann

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.

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  • "Fishing day"
    Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2015.

    Mayan dad and his children on a wooden mayan canoe getting to their daily fishing spot. According to the Mayans, Lake Atitlán water levels rises and falls in a cyclical pattern every 50 years, but is a mystery of why it does that, leaving ghostly sunken structures and trees.

  • "Fisherman"
    Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2016.

    Mayan fisherman in his traditional wooden canoe.

  • "Lovebirds walk"
    Panajachel, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2017.

    Two mayan teenagers walking toward the lake with the view of Tolimán Volcano, one of the three volcanoes at Lake Atitlán.

  • "Sunset glare"
    Panajachel, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2017.

  • "Rebar View"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2017.

    A lot of the houses in Guatemala (and in Central America) have the construction rebars sticking out on the roof. There are two main reasons for this, to keep building up when they get the money to continue, and to keep it as "building site" and don´t have to pay again the fee to start construction.

  • "Cloudy spring"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2015.

    Lake Atitlán is known for its incredible weather year long. It is know as "eternal spring" weather.

  • "Rainbow dripping"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2015.

  • "Time to play"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2015.

    Fortunately you still see children playing in the street with each other. They still enjoy the simple fun, ball made by them and with any kid that is around (no gender or age discrimination).

  • "Art corner"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2016.

    Most of the towns around Lake Atitlán have great street art, mainly showing the mayan culture and their peculiar patterns.

  • "Señora Encarnación"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2016.

  • "Huipil & Corte"
    Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2017.

    Traditional mayan women garments that can only be washed by hand.

  • "A day in the market 1"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2015.

    The local market is open everyday, with different type of stalls with all sort of products. The market is always bursting with life and is the best place to see the cultures merging.

  • "A day in the market 2"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2015.

    Many mayan families has stalls in the local market and benefit from all types of clients, other mayans or foreigners.
    They protect their stall with black tarp on sticks and when it rains, if you are at the right time on the right spot, the tarp will spill all the excess water on you. It has been working like that for a long time, and definitely you get them laugh because of that.

  • "Friends around the corner"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2016.

  • "Sunday stroll"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2016.

  • "Cemetery thoughts"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2015.

    Young man just hanging out at the local cemetery.

  • "The man of the leafy greens"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2015.

  • "Window into town"
    San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2015.


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