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September 18, 2013 at 7:24 AM
SAN JUAN CHEMULA, Mexico — I spent time in a whole other world yesterday, wandering among shamans practicing their healing arts with sacrificial chickens and clouds of incense, and taking part in a ritual to make corn liquor to be consumed during a celebration this week of Jesus Christ and the autumn equinox — the “son” and the sun, as only a Mayan town in Chiapas could meld two ancient religions.
It was a short drive from the bustling city of San Cristobal de las Casas. The shamans were in the Iglesia San Juan Bautista, the town church in a municipality officially known as San Juan Chemula, but which the indigenous people call Mishik Banamil, or “navel of the world.” It’s ostensibly a Catholic church, and looks from the outside like many churches in many small Mexican towns. But a Catholic priest comes to this church only once a month for baptisms, and inside there are no pews, no seating of any kind, just aromatic pine needles spread thickly on the floor, and thousands of candles burning as a part of rituals aimed at everything from wooing more rain to curing depression. Supplicants prostrate themselves on the floor. (more…)
September 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico — I didn’t get the fake mustache or the giant sombrero, as I’m told is the custom for celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day. (Darn, the stands were sold out of fake mustaches by the time I was ready to commit.) But I did put on a big hat. And I got my face painted. Sort of.
OK, I got my hand painted.
I guess I was caught up in the giddiness of the day. Or maybe it was the thin air in this mountain town at 7,200 feet.
It was a red, white and green Mexican flag on the back of my palm, with matching glitter, courtesy of one of the ambitious roving young boys at Monday’s Independence Day parade in this city, considered the cultural capital of Chiapas.
The boys toted cardboard boxes with pots of paint and glitter stuck to the top and scooted through the crowd collecting 5 pesos per paint job — about 37 cents U.S.
The parade, which featured high-school bands, angry teachers and what must have been just about every unit of the Mexican military, along with their mortars and bazookas, was the finale of a brisk 24 hours of Mexican patriotism. Mexicans reserve the biggest splurge of celebrating for the night before Sept. 16, their official day of independence.
The teachers were a part of nationwide protests against recently passed education reform championed by Mexico’s president. In Oaxaca, before I left on Saturday, teachers had blockaded streets leading to the zocalo, or city square, and there was evidence of a similar action in San Cristobal on Sunday. I wondered how passionately Mexico’s federal holiday would be observed in Chiapas, perhaps best known outside of Mexico for the 1994 Zapatista rebellion that saw the seizure of San Cristobal’s city hall. But by sundown Sunday, (more…)
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