Friday, 25 July 2014

Zinocantán & San Juan Chamula

Today I visited the native villages Zinocantán and San Juan Chamula very close to San Cristóbal de las Casas. There they only speak spanish as a second language, their first language is their native language, which is spoken by all the natives in the region. There also exist books and grammar in this local language. They are catholics, but their believes are influenced by the native believes they once had. In both villages it was forbidden to take pictures inside the church.

In Zinocantán we first visited the church. All the locals around there were wearing the purple traditional garments. At the moment, they are purple but it changes with the fashion. Therefore, Zinocantán is also the fashion capital of the region. Besides of fashion, the people there are known for their flowers. So the altar in the church was filled with beautiful flowers. Also, there were lots of animal figures standing around the saints, that, in their believes, represent a part of your soul which is the soul of an animal. It is a little bit like a totem as it is known in canada (for more information about totems, watch brother bear).

(This picture shows how the inside of the church almost looked like.)

After that, we got to a local market where we could taste local spirituos beverages that are known there as "medicine". They showed us how they make their clothes and we could have a selfmade taco filled with beans, cheese and salsa as a snack.

After that we visited the church of San Juan Chamula, which was quite impressive too. There, the traditional garments are black woolskirts, because it is the coldest village in the region and it rains quite often. Therefore, the skirts keep them warm and dry. Inside the church, the floor was filled with dried grass and there were lots of statues of saints with tables in front of them. On the tables, there were lots of candles and in front of some tables there were people lighting up candles and praying. We were told they are healers preying for the healing of other people. If they only light up white candles, it is a small disease, and if there are lots of colorful candles, the disease is very complicated. Some of them even brought chicken or eggs, because in their believes, if they move a chicken (or egg) above the sick person, the chicken absorbes the disease. Therefore, it is no longer good and while preying for the sick person it gets sacrified in the church by breaking its neck. It was quite a mixture of catolic believes as we know it and their traditional believes they had before.

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