Mayan Circle Part 8
I Woke up on time to get ready for the Mayan village tour. Felt well rested and grabbed a coffee before walking to the central plaza for the meeting point. We met in front of the church at 9:30am to meet with our tour operator and piled into the van for a short ride to our destination.
On my past trips, I’ve visited native villages in Thailand and Peru. These villages were small, isolated, rustic, with few modern conveniences. They grew everything they ate, handmade a lot of handicrafts to sell, and spoke a language different from the rest of the country. Their houses were often small shacks made of natural materials, with dried leaves or grass on the roofs. So when I heard we were visiting a Mayan village, I already formed an image in my head.
The first Mayan village we visited was called Chamul, which was located about 30mins outside of San Cristobal.
The first thing that surprised me about this Mayan village, was that it didn‘t match my image of a village. In this ‘village‘, you have convenience stores and supermarkets, and cars etc.
I guess what makes this town unique is that they have kept some Mayan traditions such as religion, dress, and rituals, at least that‘s what they guide said. Each town has their own type of clothing that distinguishes their clans. The town has spiritual leaders who are in charge of the rituals.
Our local tour guide spoke the native language of the townspeople, which allowed us to get closer to the people. We were invited to the leaders house to see rooms of worship, of course tips were appreciated.
The rituals are held inside a room of the house. On the floor are pine needles covering as a carpet. The curtains surrounding the altar were dried corn stalks. On a table in front of the altar are about 20 candles, and 20 clay Mayan animal figures. The Chemal practice catholic traditional. In the church, they light candles on the floor and provide live chicken sacrifices. There are 5 colors of candles, made from the corn which also comes in 5 colors. They are also allowed to have multiple wives.
In another village, they are married to one person, and perform ceremonies that are more similar to what westerns associate with Catholicism. They are not allowed to have multiple wives
Inside the churches, the nativity scene has three Jesuses because three is a sacred number in mayan culture. There are also decorative lights, streamers, and blinking lights that beep music as well. It’s quite the sight to see. Unfortunately, photography of the spiritual leaders house and inside the church is forbidden and only my descriptions are available.
It was an interesting tour to see how there are quite a lot of differences between the beliefs of the ‘villages’ and the city folk. They should really call the tour “Mayan town” tour, although it is more truthful name, I doubt it would sell as many tours.
We hopped back onto the shuttle and Got back into San Cristobel at 2:30PM, Although the guide said 2pm, but I forgot he meant Mexican time. After grabbing a Dominoes pizza for lunch, my tour mate and I walked up the stairs to the top of the another church to get a view of the city and take photos. It was good chat and times. We then walked in search of her magical blue and white church. I call it magical because she always sees it from her hotel room or another lookout point, but somehow it disappears whenever she walks into the town. As we ventured further towards our mission, we entered a more suburb area where we were the only tourists.
At last we found her lovely church and took photos . The church had a nice color scheme of blue and white, but had no historical significance to make the cut on the tourist map. It’s a good thing we could see the church from one of the viewpoints, otherwise we would have missed out. Sometimes the best part about traveling is getting lost and finding the interesting things that no one else really notices.
That evening I decided to go to the Kinoki Cinema on my own to watch a documentary about the Zapatistas. The Zapatistas are the name of a group of Mexicans who led a revolution in the San Cristobal area. The Kinoki Cinema is part of a tea shop as well, and you can order some tea or food to watch in the cinema. There are 3 cinemas, which are actually 2 converted small rooms, with a projector, couches and curtains. It definately gave me some decorating ideas. The rooftop cinema, I didn’t get to see, but it was open air I heard. I had a tea and ordered a baked potato. The entire menu was in Spanish and I wasn’t able to make out the words. When my potato came out, it was covered with green stuff and didn’t have much taste. Thank goodness for salt and pepper. When the movie was about to start, everyone handed over their tickets, and chose a seat and got comfortable. The documentary interviewed many of the members that were still alive and recounted their tales. It was an interesting documentary, but I have a short attention span, and wished the show was shorter.
Another day passed quickly. Tomorrow we would be off to Panajachel Guatemala.