National Geographic : 1947 Oct
( National (eographic Society KmIlahrome by Luis garden Black Hats and Somber Clothes Denote Chief Men on Corpus Christi Day Ordinary citizens wear costume at left. Checked wrap-around knee-length skirts over wide trousers add a curiously feminine note. Heavy wool jackets at center display stylized bat symbols. To keep vampire bats from lapping blood of cattle. Solola villagers hang spined prickly-pear pads in stalls. Despite their voice "radar," bats occasionally impale themselves in the dark. I was there on another holy day, the day of One Corn. As we climbed the hill to the altars, the ground glittered as if strewn with diamonds: tiny quartz crystals caught the light like miniature mirrors. At the top my companion grasped my arm and whispered, "We are in luck," pointing to an old man with a patriarchal beard and a high conical straw hat. "That's the chief medicine man." Raising his voice, he asked, "May we join you, Sefor Poronel?" The old man courteously lifted his pointed hat and nodded. We walked after him be tween the mounds of smoke-blackened pottery fragments to the biggest altar, called Big Broom. Little hollows in the jagged piles held stubs of yellow candles, dead marigolds, and ashes of incense. The old man climbed to the topmost burn ing place of the mound, while his wife and son waited below. Unwrapping the corn husks from a package of copal wafers, he lighted a disk of the resin and began to pray. As the blue smoke spiraled upward, I be came aware of a droning and muttering around me. Through the clouds of incense smoke I could see figures of men and women kneeling before flickering fires. The medicine man prayed in his sibilant, staccato tongue, occasionally lapsing into Spanish. The smoke grew thicker. Opening a little knitted bag, the old man strewed bright red beans and shining quartz crystals on the black ashes. He muttered and waved a hand in our direction. When he had finished I asked, "Sefior Poro nel, what were you praying for?" "Sefor," answered the old man, "I asked God World to grant you and your friends a safe journey back to the capital and to your faraway country. But," he added, his kind brown face creasing into a thousand fine wrinkles as he smiled, "you will return. I have seen it in the crystals." I said, in the Spanish phrase, "May God hear you." * * See also, in the N.xIONxL (.iAoct: i ctM1;\IzxiN: "To Market in Guatemala." by Luis Marden. July. 1945; "Guatemala Interlude." by E. John Long, October, 1936; and "Guatemala: I.and of Volcanoes and Progress," by Thomas F. Lee, November, 1)26.