San Juan Chamula – My Chamula Experience


On my last day in San Cristobal de Las Casas I went to San Juan Chamula. There were tours covering this village so I got curious about it and I decided to go to there by myself with colectivo. By the way this was my first colectivo experience in Mexico. There were some locals and tourists. Then I asked how much it was and tried to pay. He said he would collect them when we arrived. It took about 20 minutes to go there. 



Soon I heard some fireworks and realised that they were fired just in front of the church. And saw these men in their traditional suits. 



There was $25 pesos entrance fee for foreigners that sold by the church. When I went to buy my ticket the boy told some things that I didn’t understand. Then I realised, he was telling that he didn’t have change. Then he found some. Then said other things and at that moment a women introduced herself to me and made the translation. She was Tesera, a guide and was also going to buy tickets for her group and the boy was telling that as there were no more papers left, he has to write one ticket for her group and for me. I said ok, we were going to enter the church in a second any way. We paid, she took the ticket and than in front of the church I just lost her. I told about that to the men by the entrance. They said there is no Teresa, she went. So I went to the ticket boy, saying there is no Teresa, no ticket. He explained all about it to them and I finaly entered the church. 

Inside I saw no pews, no altar. The floor was covered by pine needles and it was so slippery. I saw hundreds of candles of all sizes on tables lined by the walls of the church. Inside is enlightened by the candels and looked so beaufitul. Then I saw a men by candles. He was standing still and was like a watchman, so I asked whether I could take a photo. He nodded with head and hand. I took one. Then in a second 2 men came up and said no photo. I told them I asked him, he said yes. They turned to him. He did just the opposite with head and hands. This was the moment 2 men turned to me and say delete the photos. But they wanted to do themselves and tried to take my phone. I said I will do it myself. But trying to keep them away was hard.. so I deleted it and they watched me doing it 😨

Only after all that I could look around. There was a band playing some music, about 5-6 instruments, as far as I remember and soon they stopped. All men wearing the same out fit just like above photograph but theirs were black. Inside were lots of locals, facing altar and holding candles dripping to their hands and to the floor. Women, men, children, some standing, some sitting on the floor. 

There were the smoke of some incense were so intense… Impossible to move front and see anything. I was wondering but saw nothing so I left the church. When I was out few drops of rain were falling. As no more to do, I walked back to colectivo to return San Cristobal de Las Casas. 

Then in my last afternoon in the city I went to try Posh (pox). A drink that special to Chiapas. In one of the cafe-bars in the centre I tested and I didn’t like it much. It is a strong drink for me. I was trying to ask wouldn’t be better with some fruit juice or salt and limon. One of the clients at the bar told that they make it and asked if I have been to there. I said yes, I have just been there. He asked if I entered the church. I said yes. He asked if I saw what they are doing there. I said no. What they do? He said they sacrifice chicken. I saw they were selling chicken in the mercado.


Later I have read more about their life, religion, traditions and how they practice law.

The Tzotzils, indigenous Maya people living in Chiapas highlands, and the largest population are in Chamula. The religion they experience now is a blend of traditional Mayan beliefs and Christianity. I have read that in the church the main altar shows San Juan (John the Baptist) instead of Jesus (I couldnt see that) and saints resembling gods are lined up along the walls church (Right, I saw them). I have also read that the church is for to be healed rather than to praying and people perform rituals on the church floor, that is why there are no pews but pine needles.

Posh (pox) drink, made with corn, sugar, wheat, with an alcohol content of some degree is produced by Chiapas people and they drink it for ceremonial purposes and for healing, considering it as a connection with spiritual worlds. For this reason they also drink cola to expel devil sprits from body.

In the Chiapas area, I saw most of the women who were selling souvenirs on the streets wearing the skirts that you saw in the photo. Thick wool, and always black. I only saw few men wearing thick wool white vests in Chamula. The quality of skirts and vests are the indication of economic status. Heavy and thick wool skirts and white vests are worn by the rich, thin or spotted colors were worn by the poor. But it seems that the welfare of the vast majority is very low.

January 6, 2019 😎✌️

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