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The sixteenth-century church — one of the oldest in Guatemala — overlooks the town from its platform-like vantage. It is sacred space to traditionalists and Christians alike, and on this first day of Easter Week — Semana Santa — it must be cleaned and washed with meticulous thoroughness to purge any lingering traces of malign influences from the magical rituals that may have been performed within its walls during the previous year. For one is just as likely to see ajkuns — shamans — performing ceremonies at the church's altars or lighting candles in the nave as one is to see a mass conducted by the town's American priest. Uniquely, Santiago Atitlán is part of the diocese of Oklahoma, another demonstration of the town's firm independence of Guatemalan authority.

In the church, the decks are cleared for some serious cleaning.