Guatemalans make offerings to folk hero San Simon for COVID protection

Between candles, flowers and ceremonies with liquor, dozens of Guatemalans asked San Simón, a revered popular saint in the indigenous town of San Andrés Itzapa, in western Guatemala, for protection against the coronavirus on Wednesday.

San Simón is considered miraculous for matters of money, love and health, according to his faithful, who begged him to help bring about the end of the COVID-19 pandemic that has struck the country.

The temple looks calm and the devotees arrive in small numbers due to the pandemic, a situation that contrasts with previous years when the venue was full and entertained by musical groups.

Guatemala, with about 17 million inhabitants, is one of the Central American countries most affected by COVID-19 with more than 106,000 cases and 3,682 deaths. Despite the warning of a second wave of infections, the government has ruled out imposing mobility restrictions and curfews such as those applied between March and early October.

San Simón is not recognised by the Catholic Church but it attracts devotees from all social classes in this country and abroad. Drug traffickers, gang members and prostitutes often pass his altar because the saint “is fair” and “does not discriminate”, according to the statements of his followers.

Migrants who undertake the dangerous journey without documents to the United States also entrust themselves to San Simón to achieve the “American dream.”

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