Monday, 20 August 2007

Mayans in action

We´re in San Cristobal in the Mexican highlands, and it´s cold!

We arrived yesterday morning after a 5 1/2 hour bus journey from Palenque and it´s great! After initial problems booking the Backpackers hostel, we found a great place called Hostel Las Palomas (formerly Magic Hotel, but now under new management), which is so lovely that we decided to extend our stay to 2 days.

Today we went to San Juan Chamul - a small town (80,000 inhabitants) a few kms from San Cristobal, and the only place in the whole of Mexico where they still follow traditional Mayan practices. The village decided to be culturally autonomous after the Mexican revolution, and since then they´ve chosen to follow some Catholic traditions (none of the boring ones like mass or confession) but mostly Mayan stuff. It seems that they basically pick and chose what they believe, which includes drinking Coca Cola to expel bad spirits through the power of the burp (no joke!), banning cameras because they steal your soul (but it´s OK to use cameras if you´re Mayan, because the soul stays in the village...), polygamy for men only, drinking lots of 58% rum etc.

Whilst we were there we went into the (Catholic) church (which isn´t recognised by the Catholic church in Mexico for reasons that´ll become clear) to see the Mayan people perform their cleansing rituals. The shamen diagnoses the persons illness (usually a psychological illness, otherwise they´ll recommend a medical doctor, which the local won´t go to), and the details of how to perform the ritual, which usually involves praying to Catholic saints and Jesus, drinking lots of rum, and killing chickens.

It was an amazing sight to see, and one of the best things we´ve done so far. Although they are very traditional and even expel people from the village if they turn to Catholicism or refuse to perform Mayan rituals, it seems that the younger generation are becoming slowly disillusioned and some traditions may die out, so it was a real privilege to experience it. We were also really happy that we were able to see some real Mayans in action after seeing so many of their ancestors´ruined temples.

No pics though. We´re not soul destroyers.



Anonymous said...

Oooh, I`m so jealous! Well, not of the mozzy bites, but definitely all the rest.:-) Sounds fab. Love the blog, great to catch up with how you`re doing.
Sitting here staring out at a beautiful dark cloudy sky and rain at the mo!:-(
Enjoy! Janet xxxx

Anonymous said...

Bjorn says..

Yo Debs sounds like a fun palce were you can burp the whole day!!