Sunday February 1…10.00pm
It got a little chilly last night. When we got up at just before 7am, it was 11C (52F) inside the motorhome.
We’re paying for electricity, so we plugged in our little electric heater to take the chill off. Ruth decided to use our own hot water to take a shower with, and we later found out that was a good idea….the campground hot water wasn’t working this morning. Then, when she was using her blowdryer, the breaker for the whole side that we are plugged in to went, and that put an end to the electricity for everyone on this side of the campground. At least the internet decided to come back on during this time so that I was able to post the blog this morning.
We hopped in a taxi with Bill and Bonnie just before 9am in order to make it to the main square where we were supposed to arrange a tour into a nearby Indian village. We hooked up with the tour “Alex - Raul” which had been recommended to us. It was 150 pesos ($13.65 CAN, $11.00 US) each for a 4 to 5 hour tour.
Waiting in the square for our tour to start
Mayan people try to sell their handicrafts in the square. Notice how short they are compared to the tourist they are talking to
In traditional dress...many of them wear this as their regular clothing
It had been cloudy and overcast when we got up, but it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.
We left the main square at just after 9:30am with our tour guide, Cesar. There were actually 19 people on the tour, in 3 different vehicles. We were lucky to be in the car with Cesar, so we were able to ask questions during the drive to the villages.
First, we were taken to the village of Zinacantan. These Mayan villages are still fighting the effects of the Spanish conquerers from the 1600’s. They were almost forced to change religions from their Mayan beliefs to a Catholic system. Many rebelled against this idea, and the rebellion continues today. As a result, they have a very independant justice system and social system that is different from much of Mexico. This is where the Zapatista rebels were, and are, active in trying to maintain the Mayan rights. They do not like the Mexican – North American free trade agreement, however for the most part they don’t mind visitors. They have some very strict rules regarding their system of beliefs and part of that is that many don’t like to have their picture taken. They believe that when your picture is taken that part of your soul is stolen away. However if you ask, you are sometimes told it is okay to take a photograph. Other times, we were specifically told by our guide to put away any cameras and don’t even act like you might take a picture because your camera might be physically removed from you. We were also told not to give any money to any children who might come begging because they might think they will make more money begging and then won’t show up for school the next day.
The market in Zinacantan
The market in Zinacantan
Because it was Sunday, we were told we would see some special ceremonies, and we did. The area leaders meet in the church on Sundays, and they do some different dances with musical instruments similar to a harp. Then, they drink a homemade alcoholic rum type of drink, which they invited us to try. We kind of felt like outsiders in this ceremony, but were assured that we were welcome. We then went to the market in the village. There were so many women wearing colorful handwoven costumes, and many fruits and vegetables for sale. It was really quite something. Then, we were brought to a local family to see how they lived. It is a very simple life. They are mostly vegetarian, although only because their land is more geared towards that type of sustanance farming. The only animals are a type of goat, and that is mostly used for their clothing. They do have chickens and eggs, but some of that is used for sacraficial offerings in their church rituals. They made us hot fresh tortillas with a ground pumpkin seed filling. It was really good. They also sell their hand made weaving. Ruth and I bought two placemats for 80 pesos ($7.30 CAN, $5.85 US). Bill and Bonnie bought a beautiful wall hanging for 300 pesos ($27.30 CAN, $22.00 US).
A Mayan woman doing her weaving. many pieces take weeks to finish!
A Mayan woman with her child
Making tortillas the old fashioned way...still done regularly in many homes
Then we were driven to the village of San Jaun Chemula. There are different indigenous people living here and they have different clothing designs. That is what differentiates the tribes in these areas. It was explained to us how the boys and girls are allowed to marry from different tribes, but it is always the girl who leaves her village to go live in the boys village, never the other way around. The Chemula Indians have a church that is different from anything I have ever seen. There are thousands of candles lit in the church, and they are kept lit all the time, 24 hours a day. Natives come in and do their ceremonies, even while tourists stand around watching. They don’t mind this, so long as they aren’t crowded. It is forbidden to take photographs of any kind inside the church. The floor of the church is covered in pine needles.
The market in Chemula
We learned so much about the culture of these people today that it is impossible to cover it all here. Our guide, Cesar, was fantastic, and is a native of San Cristobal whose grandfather was a Chemula Indian. His message was one of religious tolerance and that the beliefs of one society should never be forced on another society. You could tell he didn’t like the Catholics who continue to try and convert the Mayans.
Coming back into San Cristobal
We made it back to the campground by 3:30pm or so. It was time for Bill to set up his TV outdoors so we could have a little SuperBowl party! We had another couple, Whit and Jan watch it with us, and then the same people who had been at the Chetumal campground showed up this evening as well.
Our Superbowl TV setup
Watching the Superbowl
Watching the Superbowl
What a great day we had! The visit to the Mayan villages was definitely a highlight of our Mexican trip so far this year.
Total nights sleeping in a motorhome…466
February Fuel $ 0 CAN
February Grocery $ 0 CAN
February Overnight costs $ 20.00 CAN