Hailing inguarible travelers,
the goal I wanted to point out today is a great destination of Mexico highly appreciated for the cultural link with the pre-Hispanic civilization and the value of its colonials, that is Ciapas, where the pre-Spanish had started about 7,000 years ago.
San Cristóbal de las Casas is a major seat of the Chiapas Bishopric (1545), of which Fray Bartolome de Las Casas was the first bishop.
He held religious orders at Chiapas at that time and also the Jesuit College of San Francisco Javier, in addition to the first Escuela Normal de America. During the nineteenth century it was the capital of the state.
San Cristobal de las Casas is a city that finds its richness in its ethnic diversity and colonial tradition, which is found in splendid 16th century buildings.
As many tour guides explain, many Indian descendants live in the lands around San Cristobal. Already in the country they are constantly seeing their presence, especially children.
The gray roads are full of their colorful colors, and the sound of the flutes makes the atmosphere special.
The Indians descend from the mountains to San Cristobal to sell their handicrafts in the markets and to shop. Even the city has the same exotic and ancient flavor of their clothes.
In the heart of Chiapas, the state of the revolutionary Subcomandante Marcos, just a few miles from San Cristobal de las casas, there is a mysterious village where sacred and profane, indigenous rites and globalization blend into a mysterious blend that gives life to the village of San Juan Chamula.
In this area, the land is very green, the fresh climate (we are 2200 meters), there are pines like our mountains, corn fields and beans, and these cultivated fields make the population live in misery but not die of fame.
We meet some women waving the wool with big iron combs. On the paths appear the Mayan crosses, green with rounded edges, straw and pine trees at the base.
These same crosses are applied on homes to protect the family.
Not far from San Cristobal de las Casas and Zinacantan, we find San Juan Chamula, a town surrounded by countryside where the houses in the place of reinforced concrete have dry mud and bamboo canes and where time is still measured with the sundial.
A San Juan Chamula the official language is not Spanish but a debate that drags the seeds of the ancient Mayan language with it, the form of trade is barter and the law and its observations are decided by the village leader.
Looking at the landscape, Indians Chamula work well with their red and black wool coats, for them, sheep can not be eaten: they are almost sacred animals because they provide wool to cover in winter.
Always a San Juan Chamula, we meet some women waving the wool with big iron combs. On the paths appear the Mayan crosses, green with rounded edges, straw and pine trees at the base.
These same crosses are applied on homes to protect the family.
San Juan Chamula is immersed in the countryside where the houses in place of reinforced concrete have dry mud and bamboo canes and where time is still measured with the sundial. The official language is not Spanish but a diocese that still carries the seeds of ancient Mayan language, the form of trade is barter and the law and its observations are decided by the village leader.
As soon as we get off the bus, we are literally assaulted by children who sell chains and ammennicoli and continue to repeat “after”, “after”.
I came to the following interpretation: all the Italian tourists taking an auction try to defend themselves by saying “afterwards” and the children are convinced that this is a form of greeting or something like that.
The most important attraction in San Juan Chamula is the village’s main church dedicated to San Juan Bautista.
Religious syncretism here finds its utmost expression, in fact, Catholic religion and pagan rituals put into something that has little to see with religion as we mean it.
Almost with a sort of fear and uncertainty within the Church where I will soon be presenting, disgraceful, unobtrusive visions.
In this traditionalist church, there are no priests or messes, though, in theory, the Church of San Juan Chamula depends on the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas. The priest arrives only once a year for the battles, while the rest of the year the San Juan Chamula church is handled autonomously, in a sort of collective, by the popular indigenous.
Above all, it is strictly forbidden to photograph people directly (among which the old belief that the soul can be lost in this way, trapped inside the picture), as well as the religious rites and celebrations that take place inside and outside the church, pending the seizure of the machine or worse.
For this purpose, she watches a special local militia, armed with a short wooden stick and recognizable for a sleeveless white coat, worn on the dress, which also has the task of verifying that a special tax has been paid at the local office of tourism, to photograph the country.
Almost with a kind of fear and uncertainty, entering the church is immediately clothed with the atmosphere of suggestion that breathes.
The interior of the church is bare but lets out the spirit that pervades a people from simple but extremely intense religiosity.
You see whole families kneeling on the ground, who play incomprehensible litany in a loud voice that, going to unite, give body to a mystical brusque background that will accompany me in the mind even when it comes out of that place.
The floor is sprinkled with pine needles that represent the fertility of the earth and the contact between man and mother nature; Lighted candles and Coca Cola glass bottles are mostly arranged around the faithful to carry out their rites.
It is not uncommon for these rituals, sometimes ordained by practicing sorcerers, also to use animals (normally chickens or chickens subsequently sacrificed) to which magical rituals try to transfer the evil that has hit the postulant.
Male (illness) that can also be ejected from the mouth, always according to their beliefs, think a little, even by making extensive use of Coca Cola, which inevitably facilitates the purpose by producing large amounts of gas.
The rest of the walls are covered with statues and fetishes of other saints of all kinds and origin, there is even our “Sant’Antono da Padova”, in addition to the iconic icon of the Virgin of Guadalupe, present in every corner of the Mexico, to which people’s prayers are addressed. People silently confessed to the statues. Each image brings a mirror to the neck, in which the faithful, confessing, can see their face.
Inside the Christian church of San Juan Chamula, the large number of candles lit on the floor (next to pine needles), and above all the color of the votive candles offered, symbolize the grace that one wants to ask the saint , which are white (nervous problems), green (problems with the forest view as a spiritual entity), red (blood wounds), brown (problems with the earth or crops) and blacks (danger of death). When finally the requests are received thanksgiving, the statues of the saints are covered with colorful and precious fabrics.
Out of the church we can not resist the assault of children and we all buy chains, bracelets and key rings.
San Juan Chamula’s kitchen or chopsticks
Chicken brewery is the result of the mix of different traditions. For indigenous products, the Spaniards united cereals, fruit, legumes, and animal flesh unknown in this region.
The fusion of these traditions has generated a kitchen with its own characteristics, which has also been influenced by the eastern immigration that has characterized these places.
Among the typical dishes we find the noodle with tasajo, cochito, beef or pork with rice, pozol, agua de chía, tascalate and typical cakes like the suspiro and pan de elote. There are ham and sausage dishes, such as chicken salad, stuffed peppers, boiled meat with chickpeas, stuffed calf, chanfain, meat stew and saffron tongue.
The typical cuisine of some Chiapas villages includes iguana meat, wild boar, rabbit, lamb, calf, anantra, quail and ostrich that are roasted and accompanied by chili and cilantro eggs. You can not remember the cacahuate, wild honey, homemade chocolate, sunflower seeds and roasted pumpkin en comal.
The view to Chamula’s San Juan Bautista church was one of the strongest and most interesting experiences of all my trip to Mexico and not only
RELIGIOUS SYNCRETISM OF SAN JUAN CHAMULA – MEXICO
For more information:
Mexico Tourist Board
Via Barberini 3 – 00187 Roma
tel .: 06-4874698 – fax: 06-42014293
Mexican Tourism Promotion Board: www.visitmexico.com/en
Gobierno del Estrado de Chiapas: www.turismochiapas.gob.mx/ (in Spanish )
How to reach San Juan Chamula and Chiapas:
There are no direct flights from Italy to Chiapas, so you have to fly to Mexico City.
Embassy of Italy in Mexico City
Paseo de las Palmas 1994
Col. Lomas de Chapultepec
11000 México, D.F.
Tel. 0052.55.55963655 – Fax 0052.55.55962472
Documents: Passport with validity of at least 6 months without visa requirement for tourist stays of up to three months for Italian citizens: 6 hours less than Italy, 7 when in Italy is the time of day. Obligatory vacations: No compulsory vaccination
The best time to visit San Juan Chamula and Chiapas is from October to May because the weather is dry enough and is not too cold.