You're going to have to trust me on this! Today I'm going to have to describe to you in words what was seen
in these two villages. The village elders have strict rules that no photographs can be taken in either village under penalty of either jail and/or having your camera taken from you. Neither idea appealed to me. Some attempted to take photos of the surroundings outside the churches and were quickly and loudly admonished by the village elders. My camera never left my pocket.
IF you want to see the few photos from eight years ago, you can go to the search feature on the blog and put in Chiapas. There will be a few photos to see but most were lost when my old computer crashed in 2008.
On that trip you could photograph outside of the churches, but no more.
Below is a postcard that I bought in 2008 of the church in Chamula.
Then the sound of a small band of music to the right along with people standing and sitting on the floor. It caused one to move forward slowly and carefully so as not to step on a person or a candle.
On both sides of the building were wooden glass enclosed cases with various statues. They were saints that people were praying to and making the sign of the cross in front of or lighting a candle. As we approached the altar, the fragrance of the flowers both there and scattered around the room again assailed one's senses. On the ceiling above the altar was a painted scene of the sky with the constellations.
As one turned around to return to the back of the church, it was almost impossible to move because in this area, the people were kneeling with raw eggs, chickens and Coca Cola for Shaman ceremonies. One could tell who the shamans were by the white clothing and head dress that they wore as they intoned words to the gods. To say it was extraordinary, would be a major understatement.
At this point, I stopped and just looked around. People passed me by, but I'm so glad I did stop as I saw a very, very old woman with a censor and incense blessing the statues and flowers along one side of the building. It was all I could do to keep my hands from reaching in my pocket to get my camera. The sight of this woman was one of absolute beauty, spirituality and sensuality all in one gesture. She will always be in my mind's eye.
Once I reached the back of the church and many people were leaving, I just sat down. Overwhelmed by emotion, I saw people from our group with tears streaming down their faces. This experience truly touched many peoples' souls.
Once out in daylight, no one was chattering or anything but standing slightly dazed from the transformation that had taken place in the past thirty minutes or so. We had visited another world - one from many centuries ago.
We were brought back to reality by people selling things. A man put a turquoise bracelet on my arm and I did not even protest. A little boy of about four years old named Victor, who I had met before going into the church, brought his sister to us. She had all kinds of things to sell. Purses, pom poms - nothing that we needed but the beauty made us want. She was business savvy too.
There was a big ceremony going on which we could not figure out with a big statue and all the elders surrounding it in their white pants and black wooly huipiles. As they started to walk away, Nora attempted to take a photograph but at least three men fussed at her and displayed their displeasure. That was the end of that.
We headed for a tuk tuk to get us back up the hill and to our bus. Heck, I was afraid to even take a photo of the two of us in the tuk tuk but it was a rollicking time heading up the hill through the people and the traffic. We were patting ourselves on the back for having the sense to not attempt to get through all the people and stuff in time to make it to the bus. We were also giggling at the experience which is just fun. I loved them in Guatemala too. San Miguel needs those as a means of transportation. They are like mini golf carts.
We made it to the bus in the nick of time. Whew! Then promptly headed for Zinacantan approximately twenty minutes away. This village grows lots and lots of flowers that they export all over Mexico and to Guatemala as well. So beautiful.
Arriving at this church, there was a Mass going on and we waited until it was over to enter. This time the flowers assailed our senses as it was masses and masses of roses, gladiolas, and multiple other kinds of flowers everywhere. Not just on altars. Just about the time we arrived, Patricio said we were in for a treat.
One of the town elders told him we had to wait at the back of the church as they were having a special ceremony, but that we could watch, if we were very quiet. We did not make a peep or even move.
First boys came with huge baskets that were so big and heavy they could hardly carry them into this part of the church. They were FULL of rose petals. Other boys began to spread them as a pathway for what was coming next. The fragrance was exquisite. Then little tinkly sounding bells began to sound as men dressed in white and carrying a statue came into view. They were carrying this statue on their shoulders in a glass case and on a platform. They followed the path of the rose petals which was in the shape of almost a giant circle.
Also in this procession were women carrying large armloads of flowers and some had candles. They were barefoot. The men had on leather sandals that looked like the sandals that the Roman soldiers wore during the time of Christ. There were so many things to see that honestly it was overwhelming. At the very end of the procession, a man in a long black shroud or huipile with a red cloth wrapped around his head walked very slowly. I presume he was the Shaman, but that is only my judgement.
It was an experience, again, of a ceremony that must have been performed for centuries. No one knew nor to this day, do we know what the purpose of it was or who it honored or what. When I arrived back in San Miguel, I checked my two Mexican calendars. One said it as the Feast of St. Macario and the other calendar said it was the Feast of Santa Maria Eugenia de Jesus. If any of you reading this do know, it would be much appreciated for you to share that information with all of us.
All we could do after leaving the church was to stand in stunned silence at what we had been privileged to witness.
Eventually we walked a few blocks to a woman's coop of weavers to see a demonstration of back strap loom weaving. The woman who runs this used to work out in the open air under a very small covered space. Now, eight years later, it is multiple buildings with a kitchen, an open area to see a collection of huipiles and rebozos and a demonstration. Then two rooms of items for sale. It was very joyful to see how much this coop has expanded.
to the weavings. So beautiful.
After the buying frenzy of the tour group, we boarded the bus to return to San Cristobal exhausted from all that we had experienced that day. The experience was the topic of discussion for many days thereafter.
It certainly was a highlight of the trip.........but still there was more to come!