Return of the Maya • Thomas Hoepker • Magnum Photos

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Return of The Maya

German photographer Thomas Hoepker captures the Mayan people's rediscovery of their culture and history following years of civil war

Thomas Hoepker

Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya Maestro Cirilo and disciples around the sacred fire during a Maya ceremony in Chicoy Cave. Near Coban. 1997. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya A young girl at a flower and fruit market. Chichicastenango, Guatemala. 1991. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya Maya ceremony in cave of Chicoy near Coban. Woman leaving the smoky cave after the ceremony. Guatemala. 1997. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya Maya Ceremony in a cave at Chicoy, near Coban. Maestro Cirilo and disciples lighting candles in observance of the Maya New Year. Guatemala. 1997. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya Market day, drunken men in front of a Bodega. Guatemala, San Francisco El Alto. 1991. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya Northern Quiché landscape. San Andrés Sajcabajá, Quiché. 1997. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya A vegetable market in a town near Quetzaltenango. Almolonga, Guatemala. 1991. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya Two skeletons of Maya war victims in a mass grave in the garden of San Andrés Church, where forensic anthropologists exhume war victims' remains. San Andrés Sajcabajá, Quiché, Guatemala. 1997. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya Fidelia Ajcalón and Santiaga Cumes, Maya widows whose husbands and sons were murdered in a military massacre in Xeatzán Bajo, visit their husbands' graves. Chimaltenago, Guatemela. 1997. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya An altar painting in the main church commemorates the massacres against the Maya. Nebaj, Quiché, Guatemala. 1997. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya Bride and groom at church. Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala. 1992. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker | Return Of The Maya Women carry a heavy pietá scene float during an Easter Saturday procession. Sacatepéquez. Jocotenango, Guatemala. 1997. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos

Latin America’s longest civil war ended in 1996. The peace accord between Guatemala’s conservative government and the Marxist guerrilla group the URNG brought an end to 36 years of conflict, with almost 150,000 people killed and another 50,000 still missing. Most of the victims were the Mayan people, who were brutally oppressed by both sides. Thomas Hoepker has visited Guatemala six times since 1991, and in Return of the Maya, he has documented the Maya’s rediscovery of their magnificent culture and history.

Of particular concern is the Maya’s search through the killing fields for their dead, and of the rituals, both pre-Christian and Catholic, that is central to their culture and which has helped them begin to heal their emotional and societal wounds.Hoepker has captured many aspects of this remarkable period of transition and has arranged them in an array of astonishing photographs that will disturb, enchant, and amaze.