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Enjoying the views in Yukon's fantastic Tombstone Territorial Park! Photo taken yesterday.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Dawson City, Yukon, Canada.

Where are they going next? Chicken, Alaska!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

San Cristobal and the surrounding villages of Chamula and Zinacantan

Yesterday was the day trip to San Cristobal de las Casas. Ruth and I have been there twice before, 3 nights in February of 2009, and two nights at the end of February 2013. We like San Cristobal, but it sure has grown in the nine years since the first time we were there.

San Cristobal is located in the mountains at an altitude of around 7,000 ft. Where we are parked with the motorhomes is only 1,400 ft. And San Cristobal is only 50 kms (30 miles), away so it is up hill all the way.

The van came and picked us up at 9:00am. There were only 12 of us for this day trip because the dog owners drove their RVs back to the orphanage where it is a bit cooler.

Our first stop was the indigenous town of San Juan Chamula. The town and surrounding area is populated (76,000 people) entirely by the Tzotzil people. They have autonomous status is Mexico, and no outside police or military is allowed in.

Entering San Juan Chamula.

 The old church and graveyard.

It's also very difficult to take photos. These people believe that part of your soul is stolen from you when you are photographed. There are lots of stories of tourists having their cameras taken away from them, and even being thrown in jail for a few hours.

The religion in the area is like nothing you will see anywhere else in the world. It is a mix of Catholicism and Paganism.

The main church in the area.

There is no photography allowed inside the church. And of course it's too bad, because it would really be worth a few pictures. Let me see if I can describe it...

There are no pews. You walk in, and are greeted by literally thousands of candles burning. The floor is covered in pine needles, an inch thick in places. There are people kneeling on the floor, several groups of perhaps six to ten people. The tourists wander through, and you feel a little bit like you shouldn't be there. And yet, your presence doesn't seem to bother anybody.

The people kneeling on the floor are doing a variety of things. Some are lightning more candles. The candles are varying sizes, and the colors represent various things. Other groups have a chicken and they are rubbing the chicken up and down their arms. The chicken is eventually sacrificed with a quick snap of the neck.

There are Catholic religious symbols and statues along the side walls of the interior. There is no actual altar as such, just some religious items along with flowers and of course more candles.

How the pine needles don't catch fire is anybody's guess. Like I said, there are thousands of candles burning, many stuck right to the floor.

Gabriel himself, the owner of the caravan company, has his office in San Cristobal and he was our guide for the day. Really good to be able to spend the day with him. He knows the area well.

The Chamula market is located in the plaza opposite the church. 



Peppers!

We took a short moto-taxi ride back to where our van was waiting.

From there, we went to the nearby town of Zinacantan. Separated by a mountain and ten kilometers, the towns are entirely different. Despite the close proximity, the people have different customs and their own holidays and celebrations. We had to pay to enter the town.

Unfortunately, the main church was severely damaged by the big earthquake last September.

They have a temporary church set up (on the right), but of course it's not the same.

Holding the wall up.

We then went to a house that is set up for tourists. I get the impression that the typical Tzotzil would not welcome a visitor into their home. However, they do welcome tourists in general. And they are always right there trying to sell you something!

The house shows the typical way they live.

Corn is harvested and dried.

Ready for grinding.

Don't forget to try some posh, the local liquor. 
Similar to the popular aguardiente we drank in Colombia.

This lady said it was okay take to take her photo. She is making fresh tortillas for us.

Zinacantan is a textiles center, and the goods appear to be made by hand the old fashioned way. Many hours of work to produce one item.

Backstrap weaving.

Just for fun, they dressedup Ruth and I in traditional wedding costumes...

Married in the mountains of Chiapas!

We then drove into San Cristobal and went for lunch.

Lunch at the Hotel Ciudad Real.

A short parade went by outside.

The cathedral is San Cristobal is also undergoing repair from the September earthquake.

 I snuck a candid shot from a distance!

The main walking street in San Cristobal.

Can you spot the tourist?

We bought a set of four handmade place mats from this lady for our table in the motorhome. 
230 pesos ($15.75 CAD, $12.50 USD) for the set of four.

Street food.

Beans.

San Cristobal has one of the best markets we know!

We bought two small cantaloupe, a cucumber, a huge bag of green beans, a 1/2 kilo of strawberries, and a 1/2 kilo of sweet seedless green grapes. Total cost, 112 pesos ($7.75 CAD, $6.00 USD).

Our new placemats.

Two new sweaters for our grandkids. 80 pesos ($5.50 CAD, $4.25 USD) each.

Gotta go... we're off to the boat trip up the Sumidero Canyon!

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37 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Mexico is a very colourful place! :-)

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  2. Very colourful area but it is hard to believe that they welcome tourists but don't allow pictures of themselves to be taken.
    Nice purchases and you know they are locally made.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

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    1. Thought the same thing. But I guess they need the tourism as an industry; otherwise, they probably wouldn't allow it.

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    2. They have no problem with tourists visiting and learning about their culture but taking a picture of them is believed to be taking a little bit of their soul. Looking at them with your eyes it a totally different thing.

      Yes, it is nice to know that the products there are mostly from their area or even from Guatelmala which really are the same people as them, it was just decided at one point to put a border through a section which divided them into two countries.

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    3. I have a friend here in Mexico who is part Japanese and she goes loco if her photo is taken even by accident. She truly believes that her spirit is being affected with each photo.

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  3. Nice to see parts of Mexico that most tourists don't go. The lady who sold you your placemats had some beautiful pieces

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    1. It is nice to see these off the beaten path places. We did notice though that quite a number of tour buses were full of tourists, just not like you would see in so many other touristy parts of Mexico.

      She had lots of beautiful pieces for sale and said that she and other family members made them.

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  4. Catholicism and Paganism that is a combination. I am sure the group walked away from that church with a new perspective on religion.
    The wedding photo is awesome. Get that framed...maybe 11x14 or bigger...lol
    Of what a splendid day. I love all the photos. What an experience.

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    1. It is definitely a weird combination and seeing the church and people inside the church is certainly a sight to see and to try to explain to others. It is a fantastic experience.

      We have no room to post a framed picture that size. We would rather just stick with the memory of it! :-)

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  5. A beautiful town and a riot of colour, amazing! I agree, get the wedding photo framed!

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    1. All three towns and communities that we visited there were interesting and full of colour. We really love this area.

      I doubt that "wedding" photo will be framed any time soon.

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  6. The thing I most remember about my visit to the church in San Juan Chamula was the heady fragrance of copal incense wafting through the air. That, along with the candles and lone guitar-man strumming a rhythmic tune made for a very memorable experience. Maybe the inability to take photos made me commit it to memory even more.

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    1. So wonderful to hear that you got to visit San Juan Chamula and see the church. We never had the guitar playing while we were in there but we did hear a bit of chanting (praying) from a few people as we wandered around the church. Definitely a memory that will always stay in our minds, especially now that we have visited the church twice.

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  7. So glad Gabriel was there to guide you. Love that man! See you Friday!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, he was a he did a wonderful job of it.

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  8. All that work dressing up in those traditional wedding costumes and you didn't renew your vows? Oh, the missed opportunity... :cD

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    1. Nope, we didn't renew our vow!. We made our vows at our original wedding, no need to do them again. We did however have fun dressing up. ;-)

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  9. We LOVED San Cristobal de Las Casas! Every night there were free events going on. We spent almost a month there! Love love love this place. We ran there from the heat of the coast.

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    1. So glad that you loved it there as well and spent so much time there. We would love to go back and spend more time in the area. We agree the temperature up there is very refreshing from the heat.

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  10. We left the motorhome in Palanque and drove the car to San Cristobal de Las Casas where we stayed three nights in the same hotel you had lunch in. Unfortunately, I was sick as a dog probably because of the freezing temperatures. Norma went out by herself and explored while I rested up enough during the day to get enough energy to go out for very short excursions. As a result I missed most of the sights so we have to go back! Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. We really wish that they had a bigger campground in San Cristobal because it is such a fascinating area that we could have spent several days there. So you didn't get to enjoy it so much when you visited. I hope that you can do the trip again some time soon.

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  11. I always feel a bit like I'm intruding in churches also, generally stay outside.

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    1. You miss so much by doing that. Some churches are totally amazing to look at from the inside. This was one of those churches.

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  12. Beautiful photos again. I love the colorful people of Mexico. I'm loving the tour through Mexico again!

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    1. Thank you Randy! There is so much colour here in Mexico, we really love that about it. Glad that you are enjoying our tour through this beautiful country.

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  13. What a day! This is my most favorite blog of all! So culturally informative and happy to know it’s not inundated with the regular tourist crowd. Oh, what I would give to renew our vows dressed in that wedding attire and in that one of a kind church! Yup! You gotta frame that picture Ruth and Kevin! I’m a Catholic and I always visit churches wherever we travel and other religious buildings of other Faiths when we can. Visiting that church would have been a lifelong memory for me! Thanks again for the wonderful photos and narrrative. Safe travels.

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    1. It was a fantastic day! So glad that you enjoyed this post. This area has such an amazing culture and it is very hard to describe it with words and pictures, it is one of those places that you really have to see for yourself.

      You, do realize that we didn't renew our vows, ;-) and that we weren't even in the when that picture was taken. That church isn't even used for weddings. The only real "religious" ceremony that actually happens in that church would be baptisms. I am sure that you love seeing the inside of this one. I don't think there is another church like it.

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  14. Darned earthquakes! I hope they can get the churches repaired. In Christchurch, NZ, The Anglican Cathedral was damaged in 2011 and still hasn't been restored. Loved your photos, so colorful, and the markets, wow! Beautiful placemats and sweaters.

    Can you spot the tourist? Hahahaaaaahaaaaaaa

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    Replies
    1. Mother Nature can't be stopped unfortunately. I remember reading your post on our visit to Christchurch and how the cathedral there was damaged and still not repaired. Such a shame!

      Glad you enjoyed the colourful photos.

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  15. You two are very adventurous. I have always had a fear of traveling to Mexico.

    I'm glad you share your travels to these exotic places so I can experience them from here.

    Can't wait to see the Canyon.

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    1. We have no fear of traveling in Mexico, it is a fascinating and beautiful country to visit.

      Kevin should have the post up shortly of the canyon. It is another wonderful experience.

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    2. We have been traveling Mexico for over 18 years in our 40 foot RV and always on our own. There is nothing to fear. We have traveled thru cities and in areas that some would say we were too large to go but somehow we made it. Mexico is too wonderful to not just come here and to enjoy. The Mexicans are so happy to see us coming to enjoy their country and are more than willing to help should you need it.

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  16. Loved seeing your photos of San Cristobal de las Casas. We enjoyed our visit there a few years back. The market is wonderful, and we bought a few colorful pieces as well. I love your placemats. The fruits and veggies are gorgeous and so reasonably priced asl well!

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    1. Thanks Emily! The market in San Cristobal is our favourite. We could have spent a couple of hours just wandering around in there. So many interesting things to see there. Loved the fruit and vegetables that we bought they were so fresh and delicious and cheap! :-)

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