Tuesday, February 15, 2011

San Juan Chamula, Chiapas

The driver of the "Titanic" dropped us off close to the town square of San Juan Chamula. We were warned that  the Chamulas also are very private peopleand that they did not tolerate people taking pictures of them or their temples. (So putting our cameras away) we set of to explore the centre of town. (The photos on this blog are from http://www.luxuriousmexico.com/wwwluxuriousmexico/Luxurious%20Mexico/Products/EnglishProducts/ChiapasSanJuanChamula.html).

The town centre was a buzz with different groups of people celebrating christmas.  Markets were opening up in the square. All the men from the district (dressed in their unique costume of fluffy white or black coats) were listening intently to the local govenor addressing the crown from the balcony of the municipal hall on the achievements that they had made over the past year.

The costumes of the local people were really interesting, men with their coats and women with black shaggy skirts and colourfully embroided blouses.All the clothes they wear are hand made locally. The wool on the sheep, cleaning, dyes and knitting are all obtained "in-house": nothing is purchased externally. Sheep are sacred here: they are treated, protected and mourned on passing as any other member of the family.

A highlight of our visit to San Juan was the local temple where people from all over the nearby villages arrive to conduct rituals, pray and seek healing. Inside the church it was dark, and smoky with the smell of incense and the pine needle carpet. Small family groups were kneeling around candles placed in specific arrangements, and chanting.

I saw on man with his wife and two small children, chanting and waving eggs and herbs over the candles.  The smell of incense was quite overpowering. One of the most unusual churches I have ever seen, and it was made even more interesting because it was Christmas day.  A special privilege and experience! Outside the church there were different groups of people from the villages, chanting, dancing and singing, waiting for their turn to enter the temple.

Unfortunately, it was soon time for us to venture on to the next village of Zinacatan.  Johanna bargained with one of the local taxi drives and soon the five of us were crammed, or jammed into a taxi.  Very cosy.

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