Chamula y Zinacantan

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August 3rd 2007
Published: August 24th 2007
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Maya Cross in ChamulaMaya Cross in ChamulaMaya Cross in Chamula

The Maya cross is a bit different than the Christian cross. Every home has a Maya cross as well, whether it be small or large. This marks the entrance to the home. Marriages, births and services for the dead are also held here, not in the church. Only baptisms are held in the church and not that often.
After recovering as much as I could, we finally went on the tour we had booked days before. They tour agency was very understanding in letting us postpone due to my illness. This tour was to the local villages of San Juan Chamula and San Lorenzo Zinacantan, both part of the Tzotzil group. Chamula is approx. 10km from San Cristobal and Zinacantan is approx. 11km. Chamula was our first stop followed by Zinacantan.

This is one place that we can honestly say that you have to see it to believe it. We have done our best to include interesting information in the captions with the photos. If you are in Chiapas, this is one tour you can't miss. It is best to go with a tour as well. We don't feel solo tourists are very welcomed here as these people still live by very traditional Mayan ways. They religious practices are very unique, to say the least, and to some Catholics they are very disturbing, according to our guide.

As you walk into the church, the scene inside literally takes your breath away. It is something most people have never seen inside of a church before. As mentioned, it
Chamula Religious Authority Home Chamula Religious Authority Home Chamula Religious Authority Home

This home is easily recognized in Chamula because the religious authorities live here. It is marked by the pine needle arch at the entrance. Every man during a period of time in his life becomes one of these. They save their money throughout their life for this position as well. They need to money not to become one, but to carry out the duties and rituals for the village. These men are easily recognized in the community as well. They wear a black sleeveless tunic or shall with a hat with colorful ribbons . The rest of the men can literally wear whatever they want, including jeans, but the women have to dress in the typical black or brown wool skirt and handmade blouse.
is quite difficult to explain.

Inside the church, as mentioned in the caption of the photo, hundreds of candles flicker. Each color of the candle represents something different and is lit to heal. There is no where to sit except on the floor of the church. Pine needles cover the floor of the church. These pine needles separate them from the ground making it a very sacred place. They have two sides of the church, the positive and negative. There are only a few windows in the church and they are on the same side, representing the positive side. The Christian cross is on the negative side and is not decorated with anything.

While they practice their traditional ways, they have, in fact, accepted the modern things as well. Many of these people use cell phones. We are always so interested as we see them on the cell phone and hearing them speak in their dialect.

We were completely fascinated on this tour!

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


Chamula TourChamula Tour
Chamula Tour

This was one of the most fascinating tours that we have been on. Alberto, our guide, was one of the best guides we have had as well. He speaks perfect Spanish, English and the local dialect. He is working on his Italian, German and another languages as well
Templo of San Juan in ChamulaTemplo of San Juan in Chamula
Templo of San Juan in Chamula

This is the only church for the entire community. The Mayas in this community do not go by the "government time", they go by the sun. The clocks and watches are all an hour different.
A Photo of a Postcard Inside the Templo de San Juan in ChamulaA Photo of a Postcard Inside the Templo de San Juan in Chamula
A Photo of a Postcard Inside the Templo de San Juan in Chamula

It is stricly forbidden to take any type of photograpy of the local people, in the church or at any rituals. Inside this church hundreds of flickering candles, scent of incense and pine needles surround the people who are kneeling and sitting on the ground. There are no pews nor places to sit inside this particular church. The people are here not to pray, but to cleanse. They typically bring a live chicken and egss with them as part of their cleansing process. The chicken is later sacrificed. They drink Coke and posh, a local pure alcohol drink, as part of the cleansing as well.
Chamula MarketChamula Market
Chamula Market

As you can see, there are not many photos here. There are designated areas from which you can take photos. If you try to take a photo and one of the religious authorities sees you, he will literally walk up to you, take your camera and smash it to the ground.
Chamula GraveyardChamula Graveyard
Chamula Graveyard

Here at the village graveyard, black crosses are for people who died old, white for the young and blue for the others. This church burned down many years ago and as a reminder to take care of the church the originaly bell was moved into Chamula.
Zinacantan HomeZinacantan Home
Zinacantan Home

This community is just about 11 km northwest of San Cristobal. Again here in this community, photos are forbidden. The only reasons we have these photos are because this is part of the tour and it is accpeted here. This group understands the need for tourism and allows it or at least that was what we were told.
Zinacantan WeddingZinacantan Wedding
Zinacantan Wedding

Well, we finally did it...we got married! No, not really, but we dressed the part like the Mayans in this village. This is typically what the man and woman would wear for their wedding.
Zinacantan WorkZinacantan Work
Zinacantan Work

This home is wear many of the clothes are made and where tourist can purchase the clothes. This woman is working on a beautiful hand made blouse.
Zinacantan Hand Made ClothesZinacantan Hand Made Clothes
Zinacantan Hand Made Clothes

This photo represents what the people typially wear in these villages. These are all hand made. The details are just incredible.
A Typical MealA Typical Meal
A Typical Meal

Here we were presented with a typical meal that is eaten in this area in the highlands. Hand made tortillas were made here as well as the local alcohol drink, posh. Unfortunately, I was still recovering so I could not enjoy, but Carlos definitely enjoyed for the both of us.
Mayan CrossMayan Cross
Mayan Cross

This cross is located in Zinacantan. All crossed need to be decorated and typically pine needles are the choice of decoration.

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