San Andrés shares with many other western-highland villages (including Zunil and Santiago Atitlán) the honour of revering San Simón, or Maximón, the wicked saint, whose image is housed in a pagan chapel in the village. His abode is home to drunken men, cigar-smoking women and hundreds of burning candles, each symbolizing a request. Curiously this San Simón attracts a largely ladino congregation and is particularly popular with prostitutes. Inside the dimly lit shrine, the walls are adorned with hundreds of plaques from all over Guatemala and Central America, thanking San Simón for his help. For a small fee, you may be offered a limpia, or soul cleansing, which involves one of the resident women workers beating you with a bushel of herbs, while you share a bottle of local firewater, aguardiente, with San Simón (it dribbles down his front) and the attendant will periodically spray you with alcohol from her mouth. If you are in the region, try to get to San Andrés on October 28 when San Simón is removed from his sanctuary and paraded through the town in a pagan celebration featuring much alcohol and dancing.

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