Discover the Secretive Maya of Chiapas in the Mountain Village of San Juan Chamula

San Juan Chamula is a township located in the Mexican state of Chiapas, situated about 6 miles from San Cristobal de las Casas. The Chamulans are a fiercely independent Tzotzil group, and this main village forms the epicenter for some unique religious practices in the wide spectrum of Mexican culture.

There are many things to do in Chiapas, such as visits to Palenque and Agua Azul, and outsiders are also encouraged to visit San Juan Chamula, but a big sign at the entrance to the village strictly forbids photography inside the village church or at rituals. Do not ignore these restrictions; the community takes them very seriously.

Nearby, around the shell of an older church, is the village graveyard. Though it’s no longer practiced, traditionally black crosses were allocated to people who died old, while white ones were used for the young, and blue for others.

Chamulan men are known to wear loose homespun tunics of white wool, while Chamulan women normally dress in fairly plain white or blue blouses and/or shawls and woolen skirts.

This intimately distinctive township also showcases very intimate and particular details of Mexican history. As tradition would have it in most of the country’s rural regions, Sunday is the weekly market, when people from the hills stream into the village to shop, trade and visit the main church. A corresponding number of tourist buses also stream in, so it might be better to stop by on another day.

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