San Pedro
la Laguna

San Juan
la Laguna

Santiago
Atitlán

San Juan
Comalapa

Paula Nicho Cúmez

 

Luna Plateada Dorada

[The Glistening Golden Moon]

2002, 36” x 25”

 

In its depiction of a woman on the moon, Luna Plateada Dorada is, like many of Paula Nicho’s paintings, immediately appealing. At the same time, it has a significance that would be clear to the Maya of Guatemala. In ancient Maya mythology, the moon goddess was a young beautiful woman. She was often depicted as reclining on the Maya glyph for moon, a crescent (Miller and Taub 1993).

This reclining woman has designs on her skin typical of the designs used by weavers. To Paula this signifies that a woman’s traje is part of her very essence. The woman, covered with weaving patterns typical of Quetzaltenango, rests on a perraje from Quetzaltenango. A cinta (headband or head-ribbon) from Quetzaltenango, which women intertwine with their hair, is wrapped around the crescent moon with the tassels hanging below.

The painting alludes to the song Luna de Xelajú written by Paco Pérez. It is the most beloved song and the unofficial second national hymn of Guatemala. The words tell of the never-forgotten love and loss of a brown-skinned girl under the silvery moon of Quetzaltenango. The line of the song that Paula refers to in the title is: “...I come to sing to my beloved under the silvery moon (luna plateada) of my Xelaju.”

Xela (pronounced Chela) is the pre-Conquest Maya name for Quetzaltenango and has great significance to the Maya. It was on a plain outside of Xelajú that the Quiché Maya king Tecún Umán, dressed in feathers and all of his kingly Maya finery, was defeated by Pedro Alvarado. Quetzaltenango is still often referred to as Xela. On the chicken buses going to Quetzaltenango,  the ayudante (helper to the bus driver) always uses Xela rather than Quetzaltenango to refer to the bus's destination. The ayudante entices people to enter the bus, much like a side-show barker, while yelling out “Xela, Xela, Xela”.