Sunday, August 2, 2009

gracias, san juan chamula

so i was in San Cristobal de las Casas for two days, not doing much besides freezing my butt off (in July, seriously!) and sitting in a hammock all day drinking cervesa. my friend told me that i should really go see something, like a Mayan village or whatnot. ok fine.
so i go over by the crazy food market and find a collectivo (minivan bus thing) to take me to San Juan Chamula. I noticed that this lady was selling bags and bags and bags of pine needles? huh?
so the collectivo doesn't leave until there are at least 12 people in his 6 passenger van, of course. so i squeeeeeze in next to this guy with a dorky sombrero and my pelvis is literally stuck between the door and his thigh. turns out he's a swiss opera composer, and we start chatting and i meet the rest of his friends, this bus is actually full of frenchies. 
we get to san juan chamula and it's basically a giant market. the mayans are quite serious about their vending. i eyed some of those big ears of corn that they bbq and slather in mayonnaise (yum), some textiles and a number of things which i told myself not to buy, but bought anyway.
the center of town is all about the church, naturally, and it doesn't look too fancy but we decide to go in. 15 pesos for gringos, and you have to pay over there, at the tourist office. ok fine. i would have given up except swiss guy decided to offer us all a round 'o church visits. 
so we enter and i was not all prepared for the total weirdness inside. first of all, the entire floor is covered in pine needles, ah, the pine needles, and amidst all of this dry, flammable vegetation: a bajillion candles. the place was smoky, eerie. 
along the side walls all these small statues of saints with creepy looks on their faces, and plastic mirrors around their necks, the kind you put in your locker and plaster with stickers of zach ephron.
at the front of the church where normally you would see jesus on his cross in all his glory, well he was there but kind of tossed to the side, in a box leaning against the wall with some other saints of lower importance. the real deal was on this san juan baptista guy with his awesome hat.
so all around the church you had the mayans sitting on the ground and chanting loudly in their dialect, lighting candles and giving offerings. eggs, cans of coca cola, tang, and live chickens. yes, live chickens. most of the chickens were chillin', like, wow, i'm being lovingly held by my mamasita, but i think once they got a glimpse of their cousins in a pool of bloody newspaper, that's when they would try to get loose. and so every once in a while, the chanting was interrupted by a ba-GAWK! totally worth the 15 pesos. 
back outside i was hounded by some girls who literally robbed me of my earrings. they kept asking me for pesos, pesos! or your earrings? ok here you- woahhey! and in a second, my ears were naked. they would have taken my necklace if they could have figured out the clasp. they demanded more. how about a thank you? they tried to force me to buy their bracelets by tying them onto my wrists with double and triple knots...but i have more slender hands than they thought, and off they came. they felt cheated. i gave you my earrings, what else do you want? 
 a little boy kept grabbing my arm so fine, i bought him a horchata and he wandered away, gloomily sipping his free drink and i was all, pardoneme but that is a tasty and nutritious rice-based beverage there, how about a little gracias? 
i quickly got the idea that we weren't welcome in this town if we weren't dispensing pesos, and so we hopped back in our collectivo, all collectively a little depressed. 
gracias san juan chamula. 

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