Once upon a time long, long ago a little bird named tzak (carpenter bird, Black Cheeked Woodpecker) flew onto a branch of an hormigo tree, which grows only in Guatemala. Tzak pecked at the branch, hoping to enjoy a yummy snack of ants. There were usually a lot of them on the hormigo tree, because they liked the sweet flavor of its wood. But the branch had been dried and darkened by a forest fire, and there were no ants. Instead, a musical sound came when tzak pecked. He pecked and pecked in different places, and each place he pecked produced a different melodic tone.

A woodcutter passing by saw tzak and heard the beautiful music that came from the tree. He ran to tell a soothsayer what he had seen and heard and asked, "Whatever can this mean?" The wise man listened carefully to the phenomenon and then spoke: "You are indeed a fortunate man. You have been divinely called to be a music maker. You must first carry out the rites of thanks to God, burning candles at the foot of the tree, which is sacred because it produces the voice of the gods. Then go and spend your life building musical instruments from the tree."

So he did, and since then hormigo trees have provided the wood for the keys of the marimba. The trees must be cut with wisdom, care and passion, after invoking the permission and blessing of the gods, and under the moonlight in the quiet of night, when no disturbing surrounding sounds will be carried in the wood. The woodcutters family developed the marimba in the northeastern part of Guatemala, which became the major location for the industry.