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Balancing the World

Contemporary Maya "ajq’ijab</I> in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Daniel Croles Fitjar

In Balancing the World, the author illuminates what an ajq’ij, or «daykeeper», is by presenting material he collected in a series of interviews with practitioners of Maya spirituality. Frequently labeled as Maya priests, shamans, spiritual guides, or even witches, the men and women called ajq’ijab do a variety of work to help their visitors, their ancestors, the spirits and the world itself. Nine interviewees from the Quetzaltenango area in the Guatemalan highlands tell about how they cure and avert illness, perform divinations, communicate with the ancestors and do their part in balancing the world. Most of them agree that they have been chosen for this responsibility and they see it as both a gift and a burden.
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Chapter 2 – Fieldwork in Guatemala


The major part of this project consisted of collecting and systematising empirical material. This is also reflected in the relative sizes of the three parts of the text, where Part II clearly is the largest. For my fieldwork, I travelled to the city of Quetzaltenango in Guatemala, where I interviewed nine persons in a total of 15 qualitative interviews.

This chapter introduces my interviewees and deals with how I collected and handled the empirical material which is the base of the project. Before looking at that, however, I will present a brief introduction to Guatemala’s geography, population and history.

Guatemala’s location in Central America (left) and a map of Guatemala.

Guatemala lies in the northernmost part of Central America, bordering the Pacific Ocean between Mexico and El Salvador and the Caribbean Sea between Belize and Honduras. Even though it covers an area of less than 110,000 km2, one finds an immensely varied landscape within its borders.1

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