Today I decided to delve into Kathi Macias' book More Than Conquerors and talk about the town where Hector's mother was a missionary before she disappeared. If you haven't read this book, I recommend you get a copy soon! :-)
San Juan Chamula rests in the Chiapas highlands at an altitude of 7,200 feet. It is mainly inhabited by the Maya people who speak their Tzotzil language, which is one of many Mayan languages.
Uniquely enough, this small town enjoys autonomous status with Mexico - they make their own laws, separate from the rest of Mexico. Chamulas has their own police for in their village. They fought hard over the centuries to maintain their own unique culture and heritage. They staged a strong rebellion against the conquistadors in 1524. Then in 1869 they attacked San Cristobal to gain more rights to land and culture separate from other towns in Mexico.
One of the many reasons people visit San Juan Chamula is to see "Templo de San Juan" - the main church, which is a profound combination of traditional Maya rituals and Catholicism. Inside, the chapel is lit by hundreds of candles place in front of the statues of saints. The air constantly smells of incense. People who come to pray light dozens of candles - each to represent a member of the family. In order for outsiders to enter the church, they must purchase a ticket at the local tourist office for a small fee. (I thought that was rather interesting!)
Another interesting tidbit - they categorize their cemetery. Yes, you heard me right! The picture above is one I found while researching for this post. The author of the picture explained the crosses this way - "White crosses are for people who died young; black crosses for people who died old and blue crosses for all others."
If you are curious as to the real danger for Christian in Chamula, I found out this bit of information. "Chamulans take their religion very seriously. If someone is found to have lost faith in the Catholic religion or has converted to the more sober Protestant side of Christianity, they are expelled from the community. This has led to the displacement of thousands of Chamulans to other local communities, including recent shantytowns surrounding San Cristóbal."
Well, there you have it for this weeks history post! Hope you enjoyed learning about San Juan Chamula!