Mike and I explored the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula for 2 weeks of flyfishing (Mike), diving (Stacey), snorkeling, Maya ruins, a colonial city, cenotes, quite a few hammocks and lots of great food.

When Mike flew home I headed to San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas for 2 weeks of Spanish study with a small group in tow. We lived with host families and visited area sights including villages, museums, and ruins.

When the group flew home I bused to San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala for a week of planning for future growth of the Beca Project (link below) and meeting our sponsored kids and their families.

When our daughter Mariah and her husband Greg invited us to share a timeshare in Quintana Roo between Christmas and New Years, a new chapter to this blog was added. HAPPY TRAILS!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Indigenous Villages

One of the reasons I was drawn to Chiapas is because of its strong indigenous presence. Today we visited 2 indigenous villages. Our guide, Cesar, was born in an indigenous village but attended “western” schools in San Cristobal; he is a respectful, informed, and passionate guide.

We traveled in an oldish VW bus through beautiful, well tended agricultural land to our 1st stop, San Juan Chamula.

The people of Chamula are very united and independent of the rest of Chiapas in many ways, practicing religious, civic, and agricultural traditions passed down through generations and fiercely guarded. Although they generously allowed us to visit the home of a religious leader to learn of the traditions, we were not allowed to take photos. We enjoyed learning about traditions that included careful guarding and replacing of a false ceiling of plants and pine needle floor coverings, burning of copal (incense) and candles daily, and celebrations that include gun powder, fireworks, the music of harps, drums, and accordians, and a strong local alcoholic beverage called posh.

The people on the street and in the market are very shy. The women wear satin blouses and sweaters with heavy black wool skirts made of the same fabric you might remember from the tunic of a man walking near the cathedral in San Cristobal in one of last week’s posts. The arched trees with platform mark the house of a religious leader.

For me, the highlight of the visit to this town was the unique church, built in the 1500’s and devoid of pews and priests. Inside, dozens of locals were performing ceremonies individually or in small groups, using candles, eggs, chickens, and beverages including soft drinks and posh. The altar was covered with gorgeous flowers grown in nearby Zinacantan and the walls were lined with saints encased in glass; apparently if patrons prayed to a saint and didn’t get what they wanted, there was a tendency to harm the statues which were eventually protected behind glass. No photos were allowed there, either, so you’ll have to be satisfied with a look at the beautiful façade.

While Chamula is known for its vegetables, nearby Zinancantin is known for its flowers. The towns share a Maya language, Tzotzil, and are only a few miles apart, but the look and feel of them is very different. Zinacantan is awash with color: both men and women wear traditional clothing adorned with gorgeous flowers. We visited the church there, too, more traditionally Catholic (a sign at the entrance forbade the killing of chickens in the church) and watched part of a school festival.

We walked through town....

....and visited the home of some weavers who demonstrated their skills with both cloth and tortillas and were gracious enough to share the latter.

It was a day of learning and of seeing and tasting new things; see the cactus fruit, “tuna” below. HAPPY TRAILS!

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