Bird Lore from Santiago Atitlan, the House of Birds
The Tz'utujil Mayan town of Santiago Atitlan on the shores of Lake Atitlan is known in Tz'utujil as the "House of Birds". We asked a lot of folks why it has that name, and were told that birds used to be abundant there, nesting in the rooftops of thatched houses. Most of the people we were able to talk to there are not as closely tied to the forest or fields as their predecessors, so we weren't able to get as many bird names or stories as we did in the Mopan or Q'eqchi' areas, but we still collected some interesting accounts of using hummingbirds as cures for epilepsy and as love potions!
One of the most striking things about Santiago Atitlan are the birds embroidered onto the traditional blouses and men's short pants. A nice hand-embroidered pair of pants there will run you over $500. That's some expensive shorts! While most folks may not know a whole lot about birds in the town, birds are still extremely important symbols of identity for town residents (check out one of our friend's pants below).