Manuel González Quiacain


Manuel González Quiacain is a true artist in every sense. He is involved in recording and preserving every part of the cultural heritage of the Tz’utuhil Mayan people and especially the culture of his town San Pedro la Laguna. His family is descended from the first non-Mayan person to marry into the town, and as such they had the first colonial house in the town. Outside of the catholic church they had the most relics in their private chapel. When the local priest decided to destroy all the “graven” relics, Manuel was able to save some of these cultural treasures from being burned. When his family converted to a fundamental religion he negotiated the gift of the 200-year-old carved-and-painted wooden image of Christ on the cross to another side of the family who remained Catholic. He has recorded many old Tz’utuhil Mayan stories. When embroidered “paintings” became popular with the tourists, Manuel created one with the finest embroidery, unequaled in quality by any in the markets.


For a couple of years in the early 1990s, Manuel tried painting. Most of his paintings were small portraits of San Pedro women. Unlike the generic people in other San Pedro artist's paintings, Manuel's people were easily identifiable individuals. Although I always encouraged him and promised to buy his paintings, he gave up painting. His family did not appreciate his artistic/cultural bent and pushed him into more mundane occupations where he could earn regular money. When the family compound was remodeled with space for storefronts across from the town market, Manuel received one of the storefronts. He opened a cantina, but his heart was not in this sort of enterprise. He finally settled into teaching school. Every morning at five a.m. he takes the boat to Santiago Atitlán where he inspires his students with his vast knowledge of the Maya culture.