Chamula Mexico is a sight to not miss if your in or near San Cristobal de Las Casas. I had no idea what was in store on arrival. We arrived in the central square to find a colorfully ornate church presiding over the town activities. Bright blues, greens and a multitude of other colors adorn the facade of the curch.
I was entertained by the young boys who where working on re-painting the facade as they climbed onto some sort of wooden seat attached to a pully system with the older gentlemen being used as counterweights.
The boys were full of smiles as they were patted on the head prior to take-off and the older men were like kids at a playground as they jumped onto the ropes to maintain counterbalance and lift the boys high into the air to the top of the bell towers.
After watching the show outside, laughing and smiling and capturing a few photos, the next natural stop was to wander inside the church. As is respectful in most any church in the world, no photography is allowed inside the church. I have to admit that this is one time that I was deeply saddened that I couldn’t preserve on film what my eyes, ears, and nose experienced. It was nothing that I would have ever expected.
The cathedral at San Juan Chamula is unique in that it is a mixture of Catholicism and Mayan worship. I would venture to say that the Mayan traditions run deep in this small community. On entering the cathedral, I was immediately assaulted by the smell….a wonderful mix of pine, incense, candles, and flowers. There are no pews or seating just pine needles scattered over the floor to cushion your step or make a seat out of on the floor. Besides the small amount of daylight that filtered in through the few tiny windows, the only light was that of the thousands of lit candles surrounding the entire interior of the small church. The candles adorned both the tables in front of the statues of the saints as well as the floor.
At least a dozen families sat cross legged on the floor with varied lines of candles at their center. Some burning brightly and some yet to be lit. The sight was wondrous to behold. The sound of chanting, individuals with eyes closed rocking front and back while praying to their Mayan gods. In addition to the candles and prayers, the families held many items for offering to the Gods….one even had a live chicken. At one families gathering, the woman was dripping what I believe is the locally produced sugar-cane alcohol Posh over the candles which emanated in a hissing sound and even more of a mixture of smells to add to that already in abundance.
Besides the temples in Vietnam where the monks chanted and sang praises to their gods, I have never been in a place that you could feel the spirituality the moment that you entered. A complete calm overtook me as I took in the sights and sounds and smells.