Friday, June 5, 2009

Tzotzil Villages

Tzotzil Maya people still retain a lot of their old traditions so a day spent visiting two villages in the highlands of Chiapas was completely fascinating. First stop was San Juan Chamula. This cemetery was a very sobering sight; the black crosses mark the graves of elderly people, green adults and, sadly, white shows children and babies.

The church is beautifully decorated inside and out. Cameras are forbidden inside, which was a shame as we witnessed a healer performing a ritual and villagers worshipping on a pine-needle covered floor. Bizarrely, Coca-Cola is often used in everyday rituals because it induces burping, which is said to expel evil spirits.

We came with a guide as many local people are very wary of outsiders and it is essential to be sensitive when visiting the area. Manuel took us to a home where they have the honour of caring for a figure of a saint for the year. This arch marks the location. Inside we were encouraged to try some pox (pronounced posh), a very strong spirit that is used in a lot of ceremonies. For example, a herbal doctor will spit a mouthful of it over someone who is ill to cleanse them. Oh and it's also an essential part of all fiestas, of course!

In Zinacantán, Manuel showed us the traditional clothes worn by men. Although almost all women still wear the traditional dress, it is much less common to see men using it. Interestingly, the women's heavily embroidered shawls have changed over time; when the village started growing flowers such as lilies and roses to sell across Mexico, the women included these images in their designs.

Here a Tzotzil woman is weaving cotton using the back strap technique.

We visited a house where we saw the importance of maize, or corn, in Mayan life in the past and today. For many centuries the different colours of maize (who knew there were more than one!) have held different significances. White is linked with east and the god of rain, black with the west and god of death, yellow with the north and the god of corn and red represents the god of wind, who is believed to live in the south.

Maize is still the major staple in all Mexican, and especially Mayan diets. This woman made us some delicious tortillas straight from the fire. They had a much stronger taste than the ones used in places like taco stalls.

The children are incredibly beautiful and this shot has to be one of my favourite pictures from the whole trip.

Rachel x

UPDATE: There are many more really nice pictures from the Tzotzil villages; click here to view the whole album.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you're really pleased that you went to Mexico, after all; it sounds absolutely fascinating. Sounds as though the guide gave you an insight into the lives of the people. And, no, I didn't know that maize comes in different colours!
Love from Mum (Di)