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Monkey slingshots are common, even in regions where they are not native. Your guess is as good as mine as to just what he is contemplating.
"You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how." Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind
One of the last rulers of the K'iche' Maya. He was slain in battle by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado.
What's there to smile about?
Man Holding Dead Baby
There must be a tragic story behind this.
A quality slingshot has to feel right in your hand.
I am not positive this is a left-wing guerrillero, but he's wearing civilian clothes and carrying an assault rifle. No regular soldier would do that.
Many Mayans fought with the military in the Guatemalan Civil War.
Most slingshots in my collection were in use in the 1970s and 1980s during the Guatemalan Civil War.
The Spanish brought the guitar to the New World
Many of my favorite slingshots are pure whimsy; carved by someone with a dull machette and time on their hands.
The quetzal bird has returned to a nature reserve outside of Santiago Aitlan on the southern shore of the lake.
Someone with real skill carved this. I have no idea who, but it's beautiful.
Woman are often featured, some better carved than others, but rough as she is, I find her appealing.
I think this slingshot had a different, larger face that broke off and what you see was added later.
Christ on the cross.
The quetzal bird is the national bird of Guatemala.
Jaguars were worshiped by the ancient Maya.
This poor fellow lost an eye.
Many slingshots are undecorated, just sticks with slots for rubber bands.
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We all have our peculiarities and a fondness for Guatemalan slingshots is one of mine. I have a large collection; indeed a ridiculously large collection, but then why not? As vices go, I could do worse.
I've been writing a small book on the topic which I work on sporadically, but the day will come when it will be ready for publication. Please contact me if you are interested. It'll motivate me to finish it.
Here is an excerpt from my book:
I bought my first slingshot in the mid 1980s. At the time I was selling Guatemalan handicrafts in New York City. Most of what I sold was new, but I also did well with old, handwoven Mayan textiles and other odds-and-ends. When in Guatemala on buying trips, Mayan traders would show up at my office in Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, where we dickered for many a delightful hour over the price of this or that. When one of them showed me some slingshots I bought the lot. My curiosity was piqued, and I have remained fascinated with them ever since.
Unlike other better known Guatemalan crafts, most notably weaving, slingshots styles (with some exceptions) tend not to be regulated by cultural norms. Weavers are limited in what they can produce in that textile patterns are largely dictated by the standards of the village the weaver comes from. The Spanish long ago imported the designs of the beautifully carved and painted wooden Catholic saints one sees in churches and homes throughout Latin America. While both the Mayan weaving and the religious art are beautiful, my personal interest leans toward the charm and whimsy I see in slingshots.
I am intrigued by the idea that such small, seemingly innocuous wooden statues fill a fundamental need. Here slingshots are weapons, not toys. They put meat on the table. Happily, Guatemala is not the desperately emaciated country it was not all that long ago. An earthquake in 1976, followed by a long and hideous civil war left the country, a nation that was strapped to begin with, absolutely destitute. Through grit and hard work they are digging themselves out of a very deep hole. They have accomplished a lot, but there are still a great many poor who gladly dine on free lizard shanks, however meager, when the opportunity arises. Slingshots are also used to chase off barking dogs and scatter birds feeding in the cornfield, but there is something elemental; something primordial about hunting for dinner.