Ever up for adventure, the Bravo crew, along with buddies from s/v Nanna and s/v Belle Star headed out on a road trip to explore the northern reaches of Chiapas. After arranging the details with guide extraordinaire Arturo and his company Macaw Tours, we headed out by minivan at the crack of dawn for the town of San Cristobal, at an elevation of about 6300'. The medium sized colonial city is in the heart of the traditional indigenous villages of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal people, and gave us a great base for exploration of the region.
|Wonder which of the two shrines gets the most attention????|
|Ears of corn symbolize the cardinal points|
The people live much as they have for centuries, with few concessions to the modern world around them. Largely through the successes of the Zapatista movement since the mid 90's, the people enjoy greater freedoms, educational opportunities, and healthcare, but the lifestyle continues much as it has for centuries
Leaving Zinacantan, we headed over to the small town of San Juan Chamula. There was a bit of drama before being granted permission to visit Chamula, as there had been a shooting at a political demonstration in the town square earlier that day. We couldn't grasp the subtleties of the politics, but after getting the "all clear" message, our guide drove us over to check things out.
Even more than Zinacantan, Chamula is a town with a culture very much as it has been for years. The Tzotzil women in particular seem to have a difficult position in life, at least when viewed through our eyes. Allowed to marry at puberty, the girl is sold by her parents to a village man, who is allowed as many wives as he can afford. Going rate is from 5,000 pesos ($370 USD) to 30,000 pesos ($2,200 USD), with the youngest girls fetching the highest price.
The predominant religion is called "Catholica Traditional" (traditional Catholicism), an interesting and unique mix of Catholicism with the traditional shaman based religion of the Mayan people. We were able to visit a church to witness some of their religious rituals underway when we arrived.
The interior of the church (sorry, no photos allowed) had no pews, or chairs of any kind. The floor was strewn with pine needles, and fresh flowers were everywhere. Literally hundreds of candles of many sizes and colors were burning throughout the church, on tables and on the floor. In the center of the floor, a shaman was performing her healing rituals on a man who had come for care. The ritual included breaking a live chicken's neck, then waving the dead (though still flapping) bird over the guy's back. Then she would take a big swig of Pepsi and belch loudly, which was supposed to send the unhealthy spirits away so the poor guy could get well. We couldn't tell what was wrong with him in the first place, though the candles in front of them included black (death) and red (blood). I guess we'd just have to return to see how well it all worked out!!!
The next morning we headed out for a winding 6 hour drive to the Mayan ruins of Palenque. On the way we stopped at a couple of spectacular jungle waterfalls to stretch our legs.
|One of many levels of the falls at Agua Azul|
|Cave behind the falls|
|Victor sharing his theories of the temples.|
|Isabelle rising from the inky depths.....|
|Women cleaning the temple stones with brushes....a never ending chore.....|
|This tomb robber from the 1800's carved his name into the temple wall!!!! Cheeky bastard!|
|Partially reconstructed thatched roof over jungle temple|
After spending the day on the temple site, we took a hairball bus ride up the winding mountain roads back to San Cristobal for another night at the Buen Samaritan.
|One cop you don't want to mess with!!!!! (actually a private machine.....)|
|Projects to learn about engineering of suspension bridges.|
|Evidence of Mayan influence is everywhere in San Cristobal!|
|Exhibit of making religious candles. Note various colors for different ailments.|
The museum also had an attached chapel for the shaman to heal his patients, same as we saw back in the church of Chamula with a dead chicken and Pepsi. Buuuuuurp........
|Not sure if these chickens in the hardware store were destined for the alter or the stewpot......or both!|
|Bootleg video store...burning more copies while you wait!!!|
Finally it was time for the 6 hour drive back to the marina. Arturo met us at the hotel, and we headed home after a very full 4 day road trip. Arturo had suggested an excellent itinerary for us, with a mix of self guided touring and public transportation as well as time with guides. We had no idea before this of the great travel opportunities in Chiapas, and really enjoyed our time spent in this part of Mexico often missed by cruisers. All boats heading south should stop here, and look up Arturo for his hospitality and insight into the people, their politics and their culture.
|Tres amigos....Arturo, Ernesto, y Adan|