First Time Mayan Funeral Procession
by Tim Sheepy (Sheep McSheepy)
[Editor’s Note: Recently back in Ocean Beach from a life changing trip abroad to Central America as a wandering gringo hippy, Tim Sheepy recounts one of his experiences when he witnessed a tribal funeral procession in a small town near Antigua, Guatemala.]
Just got out of casa Pirata after having a beautiful morning with some great hippies on the roof. Talked a bit, smoked a bit, read some animal totem cards for a few lovely ladies about to leave the house for further travels. Had tea with them as the rest of the house woke up. Hung around with all the Pirates for a while then got myself together to head up to the market to get groceries for the Fuck Valentines Day dinner I am doing at Mr. Mullets hostel tonight, following the speed dating that they have set up.
Anyways as I came up to the market from my house, stopping to get a fresh roll from a bakery, and continued to te market. My first stop was to find an open internet cafe, such as this, but stopped at a small store to look at their babie chickens and play with them for a while. When I got out of the store I started heading back to the main street to head back to this internet cafe.
When I hit the intersection my eye was caught by a slow procession of the locals. There were at least 60 people. In the front were young girls with white balloons on sticks wearing white dresses, behind them was the rest of the procession, heads mostly down and red from tears. I, along with everyone else at the busy market and on the busy street stopped. One older man near the front of the procession showed evidence of bearing quite a bit of the pain, with red tear trails that almost seemed to be carving a river bed. Behind him even more men woman and children walked in this slow parade. All the men with hats in hand and heads bent, half out of respect, half to hide the pain drawn across their faces. In the middle of the procession a group of men carried a tiny coffin, shrouded in white silk, on a platform between some wooden posts. When I saw this my eyes teared, I felt a burning in my chest and a heaviness in my stomach. Behind the procession a truck with speakers drove slowly and played a sad funeral march.
In that moment I felt all their pain. Everyone on the street in silence inwardly wept for the loss of this community. This was not a child a family lost, this was part of a tribe, and of a small town. Everyone in solidarity, I understood greater what it means to be part of the latin world, and part of an indigenous people. Sure everyone had their own families, businesses and personal things. But there is a collectiveness that pervades through all people and especially these Mayans of this small town. Most of the inhabitants havn´t left the town even on the 10 minute boat ride across the lake, in their entire lives. Other than the swarms of tourists and travelers that inhabit the lower lakefront part of town, these were the only people that they spent their entire existence with. After being here for over a month, and as much as I frolic and raise hell down in the gringo/traveler part of town, I have also immersed myself in the upper village. I start most of my days, as today, going to the market early, then like to continue to wander through small alleys and tiny roads and explore what actually takes place in this village. Up here all the woman wear traditional frocks and shirts, and wrapped Mayan dresses made by hand. The dresses they wear here clearly distinguish them from other woman from other towns around the lake. Though all the dresses seem to look similar to me they know very well themselves. Even without that as a cue they can see the difference in facial shape between all these villages, so close by but still so separate.
Around the lake there is at least three separate dialects of Maya spoken. That and Spanish as a second language used to do business with the tourists and other tribes. There is even a few ongoing feuds between some of the towns. Others are uninvolved yet remain within their own circles. But today for me, I saw even deeper what it means to have a community. I have so many already, and am constantly striving to build and strengthen more. But to see these people with their one, very real, very solid, tribe, and to feel their loss, hurt me deeply inside yet inspired me. It really is a beautiful thing. These people still living, besides all the tourism and other side effects of globalization, in their tribal life. Keeping firm to their indigenous culture and ways of ceremony….
Well anyways, Time to get back to the market to prepare for dinner tonight. Still feeling the weight of the scene I just experienced but feeling grateful to be able to share that moment with this little community I love so much.