National Geographic : 1947 Oct
© National Geograpllic Steiecly Kodachrome by Luis Mairden Twin Villages near the Capital Wear Almost Identical Costumes Principally background color distinguishes blouses of women from San Pedro Sacatepqcuez (left) and San Juan Sacatepequez (right). Extra huipiles serve as shawls (page 534). Two-headed eagle of the Hapsburgs, suggestive of Charles V's arms, appears in the design of huipil at left. On July 25-the day of St. James-in Santiago I watched the ceremonial dance of the Conquista. In this dance, wooden-masked figures dance out the history of Guatemala's conquest by Pedro de Alvarado in 1524. About 20 dancers, in costumes of bright cotton and velvet, dance and declaim speaking parts that run to more than 40 typewritten pages. The color of hair, beard, and mus tachios carved into the masks distinguishes the dancers; Spaniards have yellow hair and beards, Indians black. High singsong voices.issue from expression less wooden faces as performers shake rattles and move to the music of drum and chirimia, little more than an a nasal, musettelike instru ment (page 541). The climax of the dance comes when Pedro de Al varado lances to death Tecum Uman, war chief of the Quiches. In a Guatemalan Indian religious festival, every thing revolves around the cofradia, a sort of brother hood that has care of a particular saint. For a year the image of the saint rests in the house of the chief cofradc (page 538). During a festival, while cofrades gather to.perform rituals before the saint, women in adjoining rooms prepare pungent hot atol, a thin gruel of ground corn and cacao spiced with chili peppers, anise, and other condiments. Comrades ceremoniously drink the hot atol from a special gourd. Marimbas for Saints Then they carry saints' images to the courtyard and dance and play ma rimbas for them. The marimba in its sim plest form resembles the African instrument: rec tangular wooden keys strung in a frame hang over dried gourds acting as resonators. Ion Mario Bolanos, noted composer of Guate malan music, told me of the marimba's construction. "The crude Indian ma rimbas have a range of octave; they have no half- tones, or keys corresponding to the black keys on the piano. Big 'city' marimbas are usually divided into two instruments that between them encompass nearly ten octaves." A "marimba" in the cities means the whole group of musicians; seven playing the two actual marimbas, plus a bass viol and drums. The official Government marimba band, called Maderas de Ali Tierra (Woods of My Native Land), uses practically no metal in its instruments. Keys are made of hormigo, frames of mahogany, and the resonators of Spanish cedar. Players use mallets of quince wood, tipped with balls of crude rubber.