Kaminal Juyú, An Archaeological Site for Ancient Ceremonies in Guatemala

The emblematic cultural and historical site hosted a Mayan ceremony with the participation of President Bernardo Arévalo and Vice President Karin Herrera.

by Pamela Contreras
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Guatemala City, by Brenda Larios -AGN- The Pre-Hispanic archaeological site of the Mayan culture, Kaminal Juyú, in zone 7 of Guatemala City, has become the leading site for Mayan ceremonies, which are ancient traditions of Guatemala.

This iconic site of culture and history was the site of the Mayan ceremony held to give thanks for the inauguration of President Bernardo Arévalo and Vice President Karin Herrera.

During the ceremony, Francisco Ventura, representative of the organization of spiritual guides of Santa Cruz del Quiché, said, “We are full of happiness to light the sacred fire in this important and unique place in the capital city. We know that it will be a new effort of this government; we come to support it with the written sacred fire.”

He recalled that this ceremony is included in the sacred book of the Maya, Popol Vuh.

About the ceremony 

Kaminal Juyú was the center of commerce for the four peoples of Guatemala: Xinka, Garífuna, Ladino or Mestizo, and Maya.

Initially, the Maya religion was a cult of nature and of the forces in the environment where they lived as nomads. With time, the need for a formal organization of that religion increased with the need for specialized priests.

Rituals were performed in dwellings in early times, but large ceremonial centers were built over the years.

For the Mayan culture, each candle used in the different ceremonies has its own meaning. These candles are a vital part of the ceremonies, which aim to approach and communicate with the Ajaw, Creator, and Shaper.

Site description

Kaminal Juyú, or Hill of the Dead in Spanish, was inaugurated in the 1970’s. It is the only relatively extensive spot protected from fast urban growth. Both sections of the park have roofed areas exposed by archaeologists, where visitors can appreciate original pre-Hispanic buildings.

The Kaminal Juyú site was the most important pre-Hispanic regional capital of the Guatemalan central highlands. The ruins comprised more than 200 mounds extending over an area of 5 square kilometers, including 13 ball games around the Miraflores Lagoon, now extinct in a temperate, flat, and fertile plateau surrounded by mountains and volcanoes.

The city’s accelerated growth over the last four decades has resulted in the disappearance of about 90% of the site. The main area of Kaminal Juyú, better known as “La Palangana,” is an archaeological park managed by the Institute of Anthropology and History.

The park includes two areas, the Acropolis and the Palangana, named after the shape of one of its sunken plazas. It represents the most important civic-ceremonial complex on the site, and it is an extraordinary architectural ensemble.

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