Friday 21 December 2012
Highlights: Surviving the 12 hour overnight bus ride, Chomula and Zincantan Mayan villages.
The day actually started the night before at 9 pm when our bus pulled out of Oaxaca for a scheduled 12 hour overnight trip. It started well enough with Aaron and myself watching “True Lies” – thanks iPad!
While I was comfortable I didn’t get that much sleep until around 4 am. Before that time we went through some type of wind tunnel that had overturned trucks! Our bus was getting pushed all over the place and, with the expectation of our tour leader Sid, had everyone awake at 2 am.
Our arrival into San Cristóbal de las Casas found it both wet and cold, time to find my jacket again. They had some rooms available but not everyone’s and not my so no arrival shower for me. We had a quick breakfast at a nearby restaurant, basically we got them to open there does just before 9 am. The group had signed up for a tour of two traditional villages so at 9.30 am with hardly any sleep and in the rain we set off.
The first village visited was Chomula which was the more traditional Mayan village, normally this would have been the second village on our tour but was changed due to the rain. The locals both the villages we visited are autonomous from the central Mexican Government. In Chomula they have severe penalties for serious crimes like rape or murder, basically you are set on fire. They have very little crime in this village.
The church was built by the Catholics but the last priest was driven out in 1962. The church is a mix of Mayan and Catholic briefs now. The village has spiritual leaders which are voluntary positions that last a year. They also have shamans who act like priests. The shamans will kill chickens in rituals by breaking their necks (no blood). They also light five differently coloured candles depending on what is needed. Surprisingly the Catholic Church still sends a priest here once a month to baptise children.
The second village of Zincantan is also autonomous however they are closer to Mexican ways of operating in regards to law and the Church is run much closer to Catholic methods however they too have spiritual leaders from the general population. In this village we also visited a house for a demonstration of weaving garments. Our activity leader then provided us with an insight into the differences with Mexico and the worries about Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses trying to ‘save’ the locals. The average age of people in these villages is 76 for women and 72 for men, very high for Mexicans.
Our return to the city saw my room ready and a much needed shower. I also took advantage of the laundry service, hand washing is getting old this far into the trip :). I didn’t do much for the rest of the day other then the group dinner and a few beers. A few tour members aren’t feeling great at this point with stomach bugs and colds, so far I’m okay. Most people requested extra blankets as it is very cold now that we are around 2,200 metres above sea level, I think I’ll be okay.