St. James the Apostle church has a tragic history, as it is where a beloved Catholic priest was martyred during the civil war / genocide of the 1980's. Father Stanley Francisco Rother, a priest from Oklahoma, had been the pastor here since 1968. He was devoted to his parishioners. He learned the Tzutzujil language, and translated the Bible into Tzutzujil so that those who did not know Spanish could understand its teachings.
As indigenous people were being slaughtered, Father Rother provided sanctuary for them within this church. He did everything that he could to protect them. Even when he received death threats, he did not back down. He would not abandon his flock in their time of need. As a result, he was brutally murdered in 1981, and is considered a martyr.
Blessed Rother was beautified on September 23, 2017. There was a huge celebration in Santiago Atitlan, where he is still greatly beloved.