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San Simón Celebrated in Guatemala with Music, Liquor and Candles

Hundreds of faithful celebrated this Friday with music, tobacco and liquor to San Simon, a popular saint in western Guatemala to whom migrants and even gang members, prostitutes and drug traffickers entrust themselves.

Devotees of San Simón waited in long lines to enter the temple erected in the indigenous municipality of San Andrés Iztapa, 55 kilometers west of Guatemala City, to ask him for favors, work and protection.

The cult in this Mayan Kaqchikel town is the result of religious syncretism between Christian and indigenous customs, but it is not recognized by the Catholic Church.

“I thank him for being alive and also because my children, thanks to God, are in the United States and with the help of ‘Moncho’ they are there,” says 70-year-old farmer Miguel Chinchilla to AFP.

He is also grateful to this deity because several “grandchildren arrived in the United States without problems”.

Every October 28, the faithful commemorate the day of Saint Simon or “Monchito”, who, seated on a wooden chair surrounded by money, beer bottles and liquor, wears an expressionless western face with a thick mustache, dressed in a dark suit and his head covered with a black hat.

At the pilgrimage site, where Central Americans and Mexicans also arrive, spiritual guides performed “limpias” or “purification” with tobacco, flowers and aguardiente, while the music sounds with strident horns mixed with songs of mariachis, who offer their services to the faithful.

“Spiritually it is to work with candles, limpias and the mounts (are) to remove all bad spirits,” guide Mirna Rendon tells AFP.

“The guaro (aguardiente) and beer is thrown (sprayed on the body) to cleanse people who come sick,” adds this follower dressed in typical costume and hat, who began worshiping the saint 53 years ago when she was 12 years old.

“All the homage we pay to our little brother San Simon, such as money and flowers, is to thank him. Many come who work in prostitution,” she says.

She recalled that he is called San Simon because he was “a man from here who was a healer, a healer in the sense that he gave water to children and adults to cure them”.

She considers herself blessed by a miracle because she had a knee disease that required an operation, but the saint interceded and now “thanks to brother San Simon I am walking”.      

The devotees affirm that the saint does not discriminate and complies, whether for “the good or the bad”, which is why migrants who will undertake the dangerous journey to the United States without documents, as well as gang members and drug traffickers, often pass in front of his altar.

Tobacco cigars, aguardiente and colored candles are used “to get rid of all illnesses, witchcraft and sorcery,” he said.

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