The Popol Vuh -- The Popol Vuh, often referred to as the Maya Bible, is one of the most important Maya texts. It was first discovered around 1702 by Dominican Father Francisco Ximénez, who found it in the Santo Tomás convent and translated it into Spanish. Not only did he translate the text, but he made a copy of the original, ensuring that a direct connection to the ancient hieroglyphic and oral texts would exist to this day. It was also transliterated into the Ki'che language using Latin letters sometime in the 16th century.
The Popol Vuh contains a treasure-trove of ancient Maya myth, including tales of the twin heroes Hunahpu and Xbalanque and their battles with the lords of Xibalba, or the underworld. Like the Judeo-Christian Bible, the Popol Vuh begins with the creation myth of the Ki'che people.
In 1972, the Popol Vuh was declared Guatemala's national book. Several good English translations exist, including Dennis Tedlock's Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings (Touchstone Press, 1996), and Allen J. Christenson's Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Mayas (O Books, 2004).
Las Cofradías -- While the Catholic church and its appointed priests are prominent in Chichicastenango, the city's real seat of religious power rests with the cofradías (brotherhoods). There are 14 cofradías in Chichi. Each cofradía has between six and eight members with specific ranks and responsibilities, which are clearly denoted by their ceremonial dress. The cofradías attend church together in their ornate regalia every Sunday, and each cofradía is responsible for the care and celebration of their namesake saint. On the celebration day of their saint, the cofradía marches in a loud procession through the town. Being the city of Santo Tomás de Chichicastenango, the Santo Tomás cofradía is the most important in town. Throughout the week leading up to Saint Thomas's feast day of December 21, Chichicastenango is abuzz in religious fervor, with numerous processions and traditional dances, including the Palo Volador, in which dancers descend in flying arcs suspended by their ankles from a high pole or tower.
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