PhD Candidate Bryan Schaeffer presented “The Cult of Maximon: An Ancient Maya Deity in a Modern Maya Town” at a graduate student symposium in April at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The symposium, “Mobilities,” was organized by Rhetorics of Art, Space, and Culture (RASC/a), a PhD Art History program involving students from a variety of disciplines who are interested in diverse themes, ideas, and methodologies for analyzing art and culture. Schaeffer’s participation in the conference was supported by a departmental Helen J. Beard conference travel grant.
In the conference paper, Schaeffer describes Maximon, a deity whose effigy who is watched over by Tz’utujil Maya cofradias (or brotherhoods) in Guatemala. The effigy travels annually from one cofradia to another. While Maximon has many aspects and attributes, Schaeffer focusses here on his importance for travelers; for instance, devotees often petition Maximon for blessings to cross borders safely and for protection at sea.
Maximon “lives” in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, a time and place far from Bryan’s dissertation topic, the ancient Mixtec, but the connection between Central American sacred practice and travel is central to both topics. Schaeffer’s dissertation examines travel as visualized in the ancient, sacred codices of the Mixtec, an indigenous group in present-day Mexico. Bryan has researched the subject on archival and field work in Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca, with the support of a university International Dissertation Research Fellowship. In the course of his graduate work Bryan has also studied in depth the modern Maya cultures of Yucatan and the Mixtec language with the support of fellowships from the United States Department of Education and the Center for Latin American Studies at San Diego State University.