Witch Hunt
category: Jims Guatemala

I was in town today running some errands, and bumped into Matin, one of the elder PTA members from the teachers’ school. It was about lunch time, so he invited me to eat at his house in a neighborhood of Santa Eulalia that I don’t know. This sort of thing happens to me all the time, and I usually take people up on it. The food is usually pretty uninspiring (fired egg and some beans), but it’s a great way to meet people, take them up on their gracious hospitality, and see new places.

About halfway through the meal, his wife started talking to him in Q’anjob’al. I could only get a faint idea of what the topic was, but the tone made it very obvios that it was Juicy Gossip. I asked what was up.

“Oh, they just killed a guy in *** (name of the village withheld).” My eyebrows went up, and I fished for more information. Matin continued.

“Well, this fellow, he’s a bad guy. He lives in Pett, and they say he’s a bruja (witch). He has a black altar in his house, and if you don’t like someone, you pay him money and take candles and pictures, and he hexes them so they die.” He paused. “But about 10 years ago, he actually shot someone. Some lady. It was in the village of ***”

Not too surprising a story; most crimes here go unpunished because of the weak law enforcement and judiciary system. “Yeah, I know that village,” I replied. “Nico and Katal live there.”

He nodded. Nico and Katal are pretty famous, like us, and most people involved in the communities around here have heard of the four gringoes. “Right. So, last night he got drunk, and drove to ***. The people were still mad about him shooting someone a decade ago, so they grabbed him and beat him to death.”

Good god! “Um, why did he go there, if he knew everyone had it in for him?” I asked.

Matin looked surprised. “To see his grandmother, of course.” Apparently driving is NOT the most dangerous thing you can do while drunk; going to a village full of vengeful Mayans is.

As soon as I got home, I called Niko.

“Yep, it’s true,” he said. “We heard the loudspeaker siren pretty late last night, and there was an announcement about how there was a ladrĂ³n (thief) in a car in the village, and everyone should show up with sticks and machetes to defend their homes and property. A bit later, a big throng of guys gathered above the house. We asked what was going on, and they said they were going to go find the thief.” The next morning, he talked to some neighbors and got basically the same story I got from Matin, with the extra information that the guy didn’t actually die from his wounds until this morning, in Santa Eulalia. “I get the imoression the villagers have been waiting a decade for this guy to slip up.”

And if I didn’t believe all of that, I was at dinner with Nas Palas this evening. Toward the end of the meal, there was a long pause, and he looked over to me. “So, did you hear about the hubbub in town?” he asked. And he recounted the above tale, almost verbatim. Around here, gossip travels faster than the internet.

Posted by: jfanjoy