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Today many Maya still have three-stone hearths in the center of their houses. It is around this hearth that the family spends much of its indoor time, gathered at the place where maize, the main staple of the Maya diet, is prepared and cooked to sustain life. The three volcanoes surrounding Santiago Atitlan are analogous to these three stones as the first masses to emerge from the primordial sea. Just as the three volcanoes grew out of the waters of Lake Atitlan, the three church altarpieces rise above the floor of the church as if emerging from the world navel hole in the nave with its watery tunnels below. Diego Chavez pointed out that the niches of the central altarpiece represent sacred caves through which the saints emerge from their mountain home.

Central altarpiece of the church, Santiago Atitlan.