The best possible way to arrive into San Cristobal was going to the museo for a private talk by Sergio Castro Martinez for a tour around his museo to understand more about the traditional costumes, textiles, instruments, tools, masks, celebratory and religious artifacts from various Chiapanecan indigenous peoples.
Sergio Castro has received numerous awards for his humanitarian and cultural work. By training, he is an agricultural engineer, veterinarian and teacher. By nature, he is a humanitarian, ethnologist and polyglot– speaking Spanish, French, Italian, English, Tzotzil, Tzeltal and Lacandón Maya.
For more than 48 years- almost every day of every week- Don Sergio has treated wounds and burns of the poor, built over 30 schools, and over 25 water catchment and filtration systems for the indigenous villages and poor neighborhoods in Chiapas– from the Lacondon villages deep in the jungle to San Cristobal de las Casas where his clinic and museo are located now.
Now in his 70’s, treating burns, wounds, and diabetic ulcers of the poor in and around San Cristobal every day of the week, he continues to get requests for help with water and school needs from local communities. There are always several projects he can initiate and finish as funds arrive.
Local Chamulans call him Yok Chij, Deer Foot, because he’s become an honorary and trusted member of their community.
His museo contains a rare collection of traditional Maya costumes and clothing given as gifts over the last 45 years for his humanitarian work. More than 1,000 pieces have been collected over a period of 45 years by Don Sergio Castro. He never charges when building school or water projects or when treating patients and most of these pieces were donated in honor of the support he provided for individuals or communities. Many pieces in this collection are very rare, as clothing and personal possessions are typically buried with the deceased, and some pieces are no longer created in the same fashion.
The talk gave us a real insight into the ways of life and daily struggles of the indigenous communities, especially as we will be visiting some of the villages over the next few days. Not to mention a real close look at the clothing and textiles in such great detail. I will have to upload a proper folder on my website of the whole collection soon.
It was really good to meet Don Sergio and talk a little about the project I am doing. I honestly can’t talk highly enough of him, what an amazing guy, a real medicine man.
Here is a Link to his website where you can read more about his truly amazing work. http://www.yokchij.org