GUATEMALA: The Gods of Olintepeque

Swashbuckling into Guatemala more than 400 years ago with soldiers, priests and instructions to Christianize the heathen, Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado took thoughtful note of the fact that much of the rites of the Mayas' animistic religion resembled Roman Catholicism. The Mayas burned candles and incense, venerated relics, held processions. Alvarado's priests seized on the common ground; they gave the local gods the names of saints, the Virgin and Christ, and pushed on to convert other pagans.

The Indians accepted the new gods enthusiastically, but kept the old, and melded the two into a strange religion of their own. Villages...

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