I was able to see some of the cultural and natural sites outside of San Cristóbal during my six days here. A few highlights.
An indigenous town not far from San Cristóbal, Chamula is known for the San Juan de Chamula church. This was yet another “experience unlike anything else” that I’ve had during this trip.
The first thing I noticed upon entering was that there were no pews and the floor was covered in pine needles. Small groups of families were kneeling or sitting in various places in the smoke and incense-filled open space. It was dark, but each group had dozens of candles lit on the floor before them. A man moved around scraping wax off the floor where previous groups have performed their ritual.
Locals come to the church to perform a healing ceremony.
Wanting to see one of the rituals to its grisly end, I stood beside a woman, the traditional healer, who was chanting in her native Tzotzil language before the candles. Beside her knelt a woman ready to assist her with the coming task. A boy sat to the side playing video games on his phone and a toddler crawled among them.
A glass bottle of Coke stood in front of the woman, and she sprinkled “pox” (the local fermented corn beverage) over the candles periodically. Then the healer pulled a live chicken out of a bag and waved it over the flames. She repeated this process several times while continuing to recite prayers.
The chicken resisted at first, flapping its wings and calling out, but soon seemed to fall into a trance, as if it knew what was coming.
It was not easy to break the neck of the chicken. The healer pressed the neck against her thigh and bent it with great force, and then handed it to the other woman who did the same. After several more tries, when the chicken was finally dead, it was waved again over the flames. They then dipped their hands in the pox and rubbed it in their hair. Even the teenage boy put his phone down long enough for this part of the ritual, as did the toddler.
Each group scattered around the floor was performing the same or similar rituals. There were lots of chickens for sale in the market outside the church.
Absolutely no photos/videos are allowed inside. You have to visit to see it with your own eyes!
Visiting the Sunday market in Zinacantán was visually stunning. The intricately embroidered clothing of the native Tzotzil people depicted flowers. Though the prices are fair considering the amount of work that goes into these handmade textiles, I may need to come out of retirement to support my addiction to such beautiful weavings.
I spent a long day (with a major headache) traveling to the waterfalls known as El Chiflón. You’ll see from the photos that it was worth it. A highlight, though, was meeting two young couples from the nearby town of Comitán who were so warm and welcoming I felt I made instant friends.
We chatted while swimming in the falls and they invited me to join them in their picnic lunch of tortillas, beans, salad, chicken, and cookies which was delicious after not having eaten much all day due to feeling sick. I got so many recommendations about even more spectacular places to visit in Chiapas that I began to consider extending my stay. Was I about to become one of those travelers who never leave?
Another visitor, a Mexican man who used to live in Kansas as a kid, insisted on having his wife take my picture at every viewpoint, so here I am!