Pascual Abaj
(The Sacred Stone Pascual)
Antonio C. Ixtamer

Oil on Canvas. 1990, 18" x 15."
Arte Maya Tz'utuhil Collection

Pascual Abaj depicts a family performing a traditional Maya ritual at a pre-Hispanic sacred site. Many artists have painted the rituals performed at Pascual Abaj because it is the most well-known of the pre-Hispanic Maya ritual sites still in use. This version stands out among them because, on a deeper level, this painting represents the relation of the Maya to the Spanish culture and Catholic religion during the more than five hundred years since the Conquest.

Hidden by darkness of the very early morning, the family has come to a forested area on a hill outside of the town of Chichicastenango to perform a ritual asking for some favor—a good harvest, health of a family member, or perhaps success in some endeavor they are about to embark upon. They have brought a chicken to sacrifice and have lit candles. They also have brought a basket of grain, probably corn. Perhaps this is the corn for the new planting, which they want blessed, or an offering for the spirit of the rock. The darkness of the forest is broken by a pure white facade of the Catholic church, which looms in the background over this small

It is an interesting contrast, the brilliantly lit Catholic church at the center of town and the secret Maya ritual performed at night in the nearby forest. This stark contrast can be seen representing the Catholic Church in relation to the Maya. Catholic dominance had not been able to eradicate Mayan culture which continued to be practice in secret. The Maya today still nurture beliefs and customs rooted in the pre-Hispanic Maya culture. Acts such as performing an ancient Maya ritual demonstrate what Robert Carlsen calls the “passive resistance to the occupying culture.” By passively resisting, the Maya have managed to preserve important aspects of their culture and religious beliefs.