San Juan Chamula, Mexico

San Juan Travel Blog

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San Juan Chamula

The next day when we were staying in San Cristobal, we paid a visit to 2 Indian towns; San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. San Juan Chamula is a township in the Maxican state Chiapas with over 50,000 inhabitants. It is situated some 10 kilometres from San Cristóbal de las Casas. Chamula is located in the Chiapas highlands and inhabited by the Tzotzil Maya people, whose Tzotzil language is one of the Mayan languages. The town enjoys unique autonomous status within Mexico. No outside police or military are allowed in the village. Chamulas have their own police force.

The church of San Juan is filled with colorful candles, commonly used throughout southern Mexico. Along the walls of the church, as in many Catholic churches, are dressed-up wooden statues of saints in large wooden cases, many wearing mirrors to deflect evil.

San Juan Chamula
The local form of Catholicism is a blend of pre-conquest Maya customs and Spanish Catholic traditions. There are no pews in the church, and the floor area was completely covered in green pine boughs, and soda bottles, mostly Coca-cola, on the pine needle carpet. Medicine men diagnose the medical, psychological or ‘evil-eye’ afflictions and prescribe remedies such as candles of specific colors and sizes, specific flower petals or feathers, or in a dire situation a live chicken, to be brought to a healing ceremony. Chamula families kneel on the floor of the church with sacrificial items, stick candles to the floor with melted wax, drink ceremonial cups of Posh (kind of whiskey) Posh or in recent years Coca Cola or Pepsi, and chant prayers in an archaic dialect of Tzotzil.

It is very interesting to see all this. Remember, it is highly forbidden to take pictures in the church. The Maya's think that taking your picture means stealing your soul. It is something that a tourist must respect.

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San Juan Chamula
San Juan Chamula
San Juan Chamula
San Juan Chamula
San Juan
photo by: siri