Friday, February 12, 2010

San Cristobal de las Casas

Our next stop in Chiapas was San Cristobal de las Casas, a pretty colonial town. The city center has stucco, red-tile roof buildings, cobblestone streets and many churches. The town attracts a good number of tourists so there are plenty of hotels, restuarants, cafes and shops selling Chiapan crafts. San Cristobal is surrounded by many villages of Mayan-speaking peoples, we visited two of the towns, Chamula and Zinacantan. We arrived in San Cristobal in the early evening, found a great little hostel to stay in and then started the tour, first stop is always the Zocalo. This is the main cathedral.

Pretty pedestrian only street

Santo Domingo church

The village of San Juan Chamula, where of course there was another festival going on! We gathered it was the feast day of their church.
Omar took this photo after purchasing a few handicrafts from these girls who met us where we parked the car and followed us for quite some time, chatting and trying to sell their goods.

The town's church. Visitors need permission to enter the church so we went to the tourist office, paid a small fee and signed a form that we would not take pictures of the interior, which was fascinating. It was packed, dim and smoky (because of all the candles), presumably because of the day's celebration. The church has no pews, the walls are lined with ornate statues of the saints, each with flowers and candle offerings in front of them as well as people kneeling and praying alound to them. The floor was strewn with pine needles and small groups of people sat in groups throughout the large sanctuary. Each of them had lit rows of candles. Some people had chickens which we read they bring to the church for healing after a shaman has advised them to do so. A priest was in the back of the church by the baptismal font baptizing a long line of babies.
We read in our guide book that each year a new group of citizens is elected to enforce the village rules, settle disputes and take care of the saints. These are the year's leaders wearing the leadership costumes and straw hats with colorful ribbons. They were gathered in the kiosko in the plaza in front of the church, watching a parade of children.
The village of Zinacantan where another ceremony/celebration was just getting underway at their church. The leaders are riding towards the church.

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