I have so many things to say about my visit to this village today. My mind is crowded with the BIGness of what I saw and felt.
I want to tell you about how the pine needles are sacred to this group of indigenous Mayans, the CHAMULANS. How they covered the floors of the church, how slippery it was to walk through them, but how each footstep crushes the needles and releases the pine scent through the air.
how there were candles burning on the floor, and groups of Mayan women huddled together sitting and murmuring. About how I could hear the soft hum of voices, and when I stood very still and closed my eyes I could hear that they were actually chanting in Tzotzil. And it was so beautiful. And I tried really really hard to squeeze back tears, but they came anyway. All that happened. To me. Today.
But I’m not finished because I also want to tell you about how the number 13 is significant to their beliefs for many reasons, one of which is that there are 13 layers of heaven. 13 layers of heaven. wow.
When I heard that I got out my notebook and scribbled it down.
About how they believe there are not 4 directions, but 5. North, south, east, west, and CENTER.
I’m not done yet because I also have to say that their church is no longer associated with the vatican since they expelled the last Catholic priest from their town in the ’60s. They pray to many many saints. All of whom were encased in the most enchanting glass cases you can imagine, draped with rich fabrics, and strands of manzania fruit around their necks. I do not think many things are holy. But those big saints with their big dark eyes following me around the room felt like it to me. They did. The big mirrors hanging around their necks shone with soft golden light. These are the saints the Chamulans revere the most.
I don’t have photos of all of that because cameras are forbidden inside the church. But I took pictures with my mind. And I’m going to store it all safely away in the big diary in my heart where I keep the most special things. bEcause that’s where it all belongs.
And one more thing. These crosses are ancient Mayan symbols, not christian crosses. And another thing…that is to say…if YOU ever travel to San Cristobal de las Casas and a local tells if you want to go visit the indigenous villages that you are to just go stand in front of the cathedral at 9:30 more or less and wait. Do not bother asking, but how much is it, or who exactly will be there, or how will they find me, or this all sounds so vague…are you SURE? wouldn’t it be better to make arrangements with an offical tour operator? Just go stand there. Don’t kavetch. The guide will find you. And I really really hope you’ll get the guide that I had, Cesar. Oh and if you get a chance taste the POSH (alcoholic beverage used in rituals).
And only take pics when your guide gives the go-ahead and not one second before or after. Otherwise you might get expelled from San Juan Chamula like that priest did in the late 60’s. And you wouldn’t want THAT would you?
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