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The tradition of San Simón in Guatemala has long garnered considerable interest among foreign and national academics, tourists, and Guatemalans in general from a range of backgrounds. Many, though not all, are drawn to the ambiguity and multiple identities often attributed to this deity, including associations with Pedro de Alvarado and Judas Iscariot as well as autochthonous figures such as the Maya deity Mam or other figures from Indigenous history and culture. In this article, based primarily on ethnographic research conducted since 1994, I trace opinions and assessments concerning San Simón, from a range of interlocutors, and consider how these have developed over time. I argue that academics especially need to rethink the concept of syncretism as we go about identifying and interpreting cases of “religious mixture”, noting that considerable reflexivity is required when applying thisterm. For many indigenous Guatemalans, especially at the community level, little if any contradiction or ambiguity is expressed regarding the identity(s) of this deity, which leads to the question “syncretic for whom”? That said, others, especially those involved (often beyond the local level) in the promotion and institutionalization of Maya Spirituality, may work to establish a more stable Maya pedigree for this tradition. The way these various points of view are expressed and placed in dialog with each other speaks to a dynamism and creativity which is typical of Maya culture at present and through time.



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Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.