Cielo y Tierra Tours S.A de C.V.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
Content and Images © Cielo y Tierra Tours 2009-2012
Day Tours to Highland Maya Villages
The fascinating Tzotzil Maya village of San Juan Chamula
(10 km northwest of San Cristobal de Las Casas) is famous for its unique religious practices that blend Catholic and Maya beliefs. It has some of the most vibrant festivals in the highlands, and its colorful Sunday market is not to be missed.
We also visit with a mayordomo (a religious authority) to see the colorful altar of the saint that he's responsible for looking after, before heading off to Zinacantan.
San Lorenzo Zinacantan (7km west of Chamula) is another Tzotzil-speaking community. Today, the flower trade is the principal means that local people make a living and the hillsides are dotted with greenhouses. It is one of the most colorful communities in the highlands, and this especially can be seen in their brilliant red, blue and purple clothing embroidered with large flowers.
In Zinacantan, we pass by to see the main church of the community and we also visit with local friends. Sitting talking with Maria and her family, we have a chance to learn more about daily Maya life. We'll see the family altar, the house fire where the tortilla is prepared and receive a demonstration of backstrap weaving (a tradition that has been practised since ancient times). We'll also have a chance to buy some of their beautiful work.
OPTIONAL: To open our tour, we can also offer a 45-minute walk through the lovely hills surrounding Chamula. This gives a unique insight into the Maya way of life, as we pass through a landscape dotted with cornfields and clusters of houses, and we see men farming their land and women tending flocks of sheep, collecting firewood and weaving.
SAN JUAN CHAMULA & ZINACANTAN
Day of excursion: Any day of the week
Duration: 5 to 6 hours
The women of Chamula are the region's best wool weavers and this can be seen in their distinctive traditional clothing of heavy wool skirts, and woollen smocks for men.
Inside the church is breathtaking. The floor is carpeted in pine needles and the flickering of thousands of candles casts a mystical glow. Families kneel on the floor, chanting and praying, statues of saints line the walls, and Iloles (medicine men or women) perform traditional healings. It is an incredible experience.
During our tour, we learn about the culture and traditions of this remarkable community. We visit first their atmospheric cemetery with its Maya crosses scattered across a hill. And from there we wander through the village (and the daily food and handicrafts market) to the main church of the community.