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Saints and Spirits: Maximón

Updated on September 14, 2016
Edmund Standing profile image

Edmund Standing holds a BA in Theology & Religious Studies and an MA in Critical & Cultural Theory.

San Simon (AKA Maximon)
San Simon (AKA Maximon) | Source

Maximón (maa-shee-MOHn) is a folk saint venerated in Western Guatemala by Maya people. In Mexico he is known as San Simón, and immigration and tourism have led to him becoming a popular figure in the United States as well; indeed, ‘he can be found on home altars throughout the nation’.[1]

Maximón is a saint who represents fertility (particularly male sexuality) and worldliness. He is known as ‘the Lord of Looking Good’ and ‘the saint of gamblers and drunkards’. He likes to gulp down rum, smoke cigarettes and cigars, and can be found sporting various eye-catching outfits:

A mix of wise man, healer and avenger, Maximon carries a cane, wears a mustache and always has a lit cigar or cigarette in his mouth.

At times, his effigy is dressed more like a bandit than a saint, wearing aviator sunglasses, a bandanna and a fedora. Other times, he has a business suit and a cowboy hat adorned with red and green feathers.[2]

There are various legends attached to Maximón, but the basic underlying theme is that this is a character who embodies intense sexual energy. Indeed, he is so renowned for this that his effigy or statue is kept indoors for almost the entire year, lest his rampant sexual powers be unleashed. When he does emerge, the parade is not allowed into churches for, despite being known as a friend of Jesus, Maximón is banned from entering them.[3]

A standard version of his story states that the men in a Mayan village went off to fight in a battle and left Maximón to guard the women. When the men returned, all of the women were pregnant. Enraged, the men killed Maximón. The women were furious that their lover had been killed and forced the men to worship him.[4]

Maximón now grants favours from beyond the grave to those who petition him and provide appropriate gifts. As with many folk saints, Maximón is not a saint by virtue of having lived a virtuous life but has instead been given the powers of a saint post-mortem.

Followers seek Maximón’s help with matters of romance and sex, fertility, financial success, agriculture, health issues, and revenge. In Mexico, magical soaps, curative powders, and votive candles bearing the image of Maximón (as San Simón) are popular.[5] Common offerings to Maximón include bottles of Coca-Cola, beer, rum, whiskey, cigars, cigarettes, and cash.

References:

[1] María Herrera-Sobek (ed, 2012) Celebrating Latino Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Cultural Traditions, Volume 1 (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC), p.777.

[2] Newser.com: Mayan devotees celebrate folk saint Maximon as mix of healer, bandit, wise man.

[3] Lucky Mojo Curio Co.: Maximon.

[4] Norbert C. Brockman (2011) Encyclopedia of Sacred Places, Second Edition(Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC), p.321.

[5] Celebrating Latino Folklore, p.777.

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