We took another trip out of San Cristobal today into the mountains to try and get to talk to more of the indigenous Mayan people. As with Zinacantan there was celebrations going on in Chamula to mark the celebration of San Sebastián so the streets were full of the people from the village in procession. It was incredible to see the outfits we had seen in the museum come to life. I couldn’t help but notice the shoes which were blocks of wood with a single strap of leather to strap it to the foot and the costumes with ribbons steaming from their hats which we were told are inspired from Napoleon. The men all had a long fluffy woollen tops with thick leather belts and hard hats on and the women all walking along burning Copal. It was strange being a spectator in the middle of what was a very spiritual procession, and probably even stranger for them too. I had already read that the villagers here are not keen on photos being taken and just to reiterate this, a few of the men called out that it is forbidden to take photos of the procession.
The people of Chamula have a pretty unique autonomous role in Mexico. No outside police or military are allowed to enter the village, instead they have their own police system and as you walk around there is men with long sticks standing around on most street corners.
We had the opportunity to go into the church which was a pretty memorable experience. The floor was covered in green pine needles and there was a lot of people playing music, the intense aroma of Copal burning and people sitting on the floor praying. There were so many candles alight all over the floor that the air was thick with their waxy smell mixed with the pine on the floor.
The whole time we were in Chamula it felt very much like we were unwelcome intruders and there were many more glaring looks than the open friendly reception we had experienced everywhere so far. Hardly surprising as we were just spectators visiting on a day that was very sacred to the villagers.
We definitely felt like there would not be an opportunity to talk to any of the local women about their weaving at this time, so we left and decided to go further afield, into the mountains, to the village of San Andrés Larráinzar which is famous for its very beautiful stitched, red and white fine embroidery. It was worth the journey purely for the spectacular views and to see small holdings dotted around the countryside with stacks of wood and people working the land. We were so high up that at times we were actually driving through the clouds.