Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17TH, 1999 – CHIAPAS (CONT.)

In Chamula they grow vegetables, but in Zincantan they grow flowers, so we see a bunch of hothouses. Basically a plastic sheet over a very long wood frame with a peaked roof. The sun glints and reflects from these plastic sheets, making a sparkling effect. Wisps of cloud invade the valley.

At Zincantan we have to stop at the Oficina de Turismo. The tour guide signs saying that we won't take any photographs here. It costs 5 pesos. But then he says it's OK for me to do so. OK, buddy, but I've heard they pelt you with rocks around here. I take lots of photos and don't get pelted.

The ladies wear the Indian costume, but men wear a mix of traditional Indian costume and modern style: blue jeans. In the church, color is important. A tiled floor, pews, and the saints at front. Many candles, but not as many. The Catholic priest will come into this church and he gives mass every Sunday. They don't do the old ceremonies here anymore. But they still sacrifice animals and do ceremonies at home.

The mirrors here are not used for ornamental. They're used only for decoration. Simple wooden pews. There are 1 foot high animals in clay, simple and blocky with a rough paint job: bull, jaguar, etc. With holes in them for candles. There are fluorescent lights, a Mayan cross, and they dress it up with lots of flowers bouquets.

There's a weird tinny music -- it's Christmas music -- coming from some computer chip or something, belting out holiday tunes. This is weird, we have the combination of (1) old Mayan (2) new Christian (3) modern Xmas songs. My guide says in 30 years this will all be gone and it will be purely modern.

The young people don't always dress in the traditional way, they combine their red ponchos with jeans or sneakers. I ask, what do Indians think about the transition? My guide says they feel they can preserve their tradition. Once combined with Catholicism, they will be able to retain their symbols and culture. They usually always work outside, and only come inside to sleep. Many of the decorative silvered teeth here.

Senor Lopez takes me to some friends he has here. A family of women who make embroidered goods. Their house is cement blocks, adobe and wood, with corrugated iron roof. Everyone is smiling & happy.

These people are the "superstars" of their village, because they know all the tour guides, and know people in government. They fly around Mexico and give exhibitions! They even got their photo in National Geographic -- weird, I'd always thought of people in National Geographic as being destitute poor people, but now I see that it's the superstars who make it in.

They draw with a black felt pen on the cloth and embroider over that. Others are shelling brown pea-like vegetables. There's an exterior outhouse with cloth covering the door. The women have very dark hair with a part in the middle and two braids. They learn things from foreigners, how people live all over the world. They've learn some Italian (it's similar to Spanish).

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