The very dry and barren hills of central Oaxaca hide some of nature’s most wonderful treasures…


Santa María del Tule

I saw the world’s largest tree!  And maybe the oldest!

It is an amazing Sabino or Ahuehuete tree (a type of cypress), over 2000 years old.

This corpulent beauty is estimated to weigh more than 630 tons!

It is almost 150 feet across. Apart from the sheer size, the incredible thing about it is the energy it exudes. Although you can’t touch the trunk, you can feel it from 30 feet away.

So full of life, the knarled arms hang heavily with soft shiny leaves and millions of seeds.

The branches stretch over the fence and you can stroke them (or let them stroke you) with their fine fingers.

This tree is strong – it has a force that made me realize that we can’t destroy the earth, it is much stronger than we are!

There is a second tree on the same site as well, but it is much younger – only 1000 years old!

Apparently there are 12 of these ancient giants in this little town.

I bet they are hiding some intriguing secrets…



Hierve de Agua

This amazing place took my breathe away. If fact I was almost speechless, which doesn’t happen often.

You climb through the mountains – surprisingly dry and rocky – on a windy trecherous road, until you reach a dusty old village. You pass old folks herding their goats right down ‘main street’ and young guys on their bikes herding cows – those weird brahma bull looking ones. Then you arrive at a motley gathering of taco stands and you realize you have arrived. Walking down a short path – which is actually a zillion year old lava bed, you suddenly arrive at the end of the earth, looking over the edge.

Mini geysers send water bubbling happily up over the surface of the emerald green pools. I stuck my feet in and they wanted to smile, the water felt so cool and clean. Following a narrow path through the dry brush, I arrived at a viewpoint where the front of this precipice is wide open to see – and what a sight it is!

A petrified waterfall!  The eyes are confused since there is no movement. You feel like the water is rushing down, but all is silent…

Over 2500 years ago, the inhabitants of this area built an irrigation system, consisting of carved grooves in the rocks with hollowed out bowls along the way.

There are only two places in the world where they have discovered this method of irrigation – the other one is in Turkey.

Obviously there were international spies in those days!

Impressions of Oaxaca City

Impressions of Oaxaca City

My favourite things:

Gold-dipped churches – the Dominicans left a trail of marvellous churches, full of exquisite carvings, high pillars reaching to the sky, the smell of wood and flowers permeating the air.

In the heart of the city is a beautiful square, full of flowers and trees, vendors with their colourful artisan wares, toys, food, music, laughter…

Music  – orchestras playing ‘danzon’ music, surrounded by happy couples dancing, bodies held tight… The joyful marimba music using a piano-like instrument that several musicians play at the same time. On one occasion there were 3 guys playing one marimba and 4 playing another, accompanied by drums and a saxophone. What a wonderful sound…

Perfect weather, at least in January. Every day it was 25 degrees with brilliant blue skies. In the afternoons, a little breeze would come up and cool everything down, just the perfect amount…

Everything smells like chocolate!!!  It is freshly ground for making hot chocolate and mole (a yummy sauce used in many of their regional dishes) Mmmmmm….

Least favourite things:

Traffic – I didn’t see one speck of courtesy in the drivers here. They disobey all the rules. They really do get their driver’s licenses by means that do not include a test! A bus came within an inch of crushing me – the driver decided to turn right – right on top of me. My first reaction was to shake my fist and swear at him. So now he speaks some English!

The  city is predominately Spanish, with incredible colonial architecture. But it seems to be almost devoid of Indigenous culture. After experiencing Chiapas, I expected a similar mixture of cultures here. I thought I would hear the many dialects that are still used, see traditional hand woven and embroidered clothing, and learn a bit about the Zapatecas, the pre-Hispanic culture that lived around here. But no. Instead of being a multicultural mix of people here, the Indigenous people still live in the surrounding small towns, in poverty.

Noise – wow, I sometimes I think everyone is deaf except me! Loud speakers blaring everywhere, people yelling, dogs barking, horns tooting and tooting… It makes me cranky!

Oaxaca hosts a humungous folkloric dance event in the summer that people attend from all over the world. But it appears that for the rest of the year, it almost doesn’t exist. I didn’t even see one beautiful woman in the colorful traditional embroidered clothing, nevermind folkloric dancing. I was disappointed…

The people are friendly and eager to converse. But we really didn’t see any evidence of cultural events. No concerts, dances, art shows… nothing. I imagine that because we visited in January, it was an unusually dry spell, because Oaxaca is well known for its rich culture.

We really enjoyed our time in Oaxaca city. I had heard a lot about it and was excited to experience the rich multicultural ambiance. But I went with expectations and that is always a mistake. It is a wonderful place and I will definitely return. But next time I will leave my preconceptions at home and experience it with an open mind and heart!

Some interesting sights…

A display of 2501 clay figures representing the people who left one small town in Oaxaca and went to the US. The rough sad images illustrate the hard life many encounter there.

Exquisite sculptures inside and outside the churches…

And some good old fashioned FUN!

Small town Mexico

A Small town – where?

Imagine a small town situated on the banks of a large muddy river… Surrounded by dense forests… mills spewing out smoke into the clear blue sky…

Sounds a bit like Quesnel, doesn’t it?

But deep in the heart of Veracruz, on the banks of the Papaloapan River, lies the town of Cosamaloapan. Surrounded by dense forests of sugar cane, the refineries chug away converting the raw stalks into sugar.

This is a typical Mexican town. It is hours away from the ocean, there are no archaeological sites nearby and no tourists. People turn and stare at me and I’m not even blond!

Cosamaloapan is a traditional town, not just Vilo’s birthplace, but that of his grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother…. back until the beginning of time… Everyone is related, if not by blood, then by generations of friendship. And nearly everyone lives within a block of where they were born.

There are thousands of towns just like this in Mexico so I thought I would share some of my impressions…

The climate is very hot & humid. It is often in the 40s in the summer and a cold damp day in the winter may drop down to 20 degrees Celsius. Everyone wears coats and talks about the cold weather from the north. During the rainy season, the river often overflows its banks and floods the town. Weather is a constant conversation theme. It is the same as in Canada, if we aren’t complaining about the cold, we are complaining about the heat!

There are visually many contrasts – There are brightly coloured houses with flowery gardens with swaying palm trees and bougainvillea flowing over high rock walls. Interspersed with these are old abandoned shells surrounded by patios that used to ring with laughter, but now are covered with moss, the yards full of weeds and garbage.

Going for a walk is an interesting proposition. You have to wait until almost nightfall to avoid the sweltering heat. Of if you go in the morning there is a heavy wet fog hanging over. One day we went around the block to stretch our legs and passed a tarantula spider walking down the sidewalk – seemingly with same attitude as a dog, confident in his right to be there. I almost had a heart attack on the spot. A man with a broom soon put an end to his airs. As an almost-arachnophobiac, I couldn’t really feel too sorry for it.

Everyone is busy working in or out of the home. Preparing meals takes most of the day. Food is an extremely important part of the culture. And they eat a lot of weird things, in my humble opinion. As a special treat for an honoured guest, my sister was served a fish head with herbs and salsa wrapped in aluminum foil. When she opened it, she screamed! They eat everything here – and I am too squeamish to try most of it. Who wants to eat tacos made of eyeballs, ears, cheeks, stomach, colon, yuk… I’ll have fried chicken, thank you very much, and don’t give me the feet!

As you can guess, going to the market is quite an adventure…

In Mexico, the market is the heart of the city – or more apt – the guts of the city.

You see everything. Artistically arranged fruit looking like a brightly coloured buffet on a cruise –mandarins, mangoes, papaya, mamey, zapote …. Vegetables that we haven’t even heard of… Rows of dried fish & shrimp, funny piñatas, cheap bad copies of movies and music, clothing… Rainbows of dried beans of more varieties than you can count…

Whole plucked chickens, complete with heads and feet – still looking oddly alive…

While choosing some freshly picked bananas for breakfast, I had the strange feeling of being watched – I turned around and there was a huge pig head hanging on a giant hook, swaying back and forth, catching every movement I made.

The noise level is almost unbearable at times. Every little business has their speakers outside turned to full volume. And they don’t sell earplugs! There are Volkswagen bugs driving around town with huge loudspeakers on top announcing the latest specials and events, and sometimes even the obituaries!

Every town has a main square, situated in front of a Catholic church. This is where families gather, young people flirt and dramas act out.

There are always vendors selling food, interesting fun toys like balloon animals for the kids and cold drinks and homemade popsicles…. Parents rent battery-operated cars that their kids sit in and drive around the park, sometimes avoiding the people, learning maniacal ways of driving, so when they get older they’ll survive on the streets here. Road laws are definitely made to be broken…

Family is the number one priority. The favourite thing to do is get everyone together and eat and eat and eat… Music is a very important ingredient to every gathering. Almost everyone here plays an instrument and sings. Although the town sometimes appears boring from the outside, inside the houses are families interacting – without having to make an appointment first – and really enjoying each other. Last night our 10 year old niece dropped in to visit us, and she made us dinner! Immersed in a happy culture like this one, you have to feel good about life!

Catemaco is a town famous for its witches – and for its legendary Virgin. Sound like an interesting place to visit?

This small town in southern Veracruz is the destination of pilgrims seeking help from the Virgen de Carmen,  symbolized by a very old and revered statue housed in the impressive Basilica.

It is also the destination of people seeking a cure or spell from a witch or a cleansing or healing from a shaman.

The strange thing is that the two streams converge at the Catholic church. Girls outside sell basil to the arriving worshippers. With these bouquets, the pilgrims enter the church and do a cleansing in front of the statue of the Virgin.

Situated on the shore of a lake with an island of monkeys, a nearby reserve with crocodiles roaming around, surrounded by lush jungle, Catemaco certainly is an alluring place to explore. The sweet aroma of crushed rose petals as you enter the church, the fresh lake air on your face as you sit in the main square, the delicious homemade coconut ice cream, the vendors calling out trying to sell tegogolos (what the heck are tegogolos anyway?) fill your senses.

And the air of mysticism titillates the imagination…

A Catemaco Witch?

New Year’s Eve in Veracruz

Suddenly the explosions started and we all moved back startled. There were a few screams and then laughter. The ‘Viejo’ was burning! Adios 2011!

In Veracruz the end of the year is celebrated with a party (of course!) that includes a very interesting tradition that has been carried out for many generations. This year I was fortunate enough to share in the festivities.

The tradition involves saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming in the new one. This is done by making an ‘effigy’ of Don Farruko, affectionately known as ‘el Viejo’, the old man. He is a life size scarecrow-like figure that represents the passing year. On the front porches of the houses the families set out an extra chair to display their creations.

There is a song that everyone sings about the viejo. It doesn’t translate really well, but I’ll try…Alms for this poor old man, he has left a son for the New Year. Here is Don Farruko, he is dying of laughter, because at midnight, he will return to ashes… More verses are invented at the time but most aren’t fit for publication!

Since I love doing paper mache, I was nominated to make the head of the ‘Viejo’. I formed it completely out of paper. One of our little nieces helped out. When the head was ready, the rest of the family took over and made the body.  They stuffed a shirt & pants with paper – and FIRECRACKERS – to create an old man.

When he was ready, we proudly put him outside to sit on a chair and interact with the passers-by.

Then we all ate pozole…

As the hour of midnight drew close, we propped up Don Farruko in the middle of the road. The neighbours were doing the same. With a little gasoline and a match, suddenly the Viejo burst into flames. As the fire reached the many firecrackers, explosions started and body parts flew in all directions. We later found an arm of someone else’s old man in the ashes with our guy! We had chosen the cutest little girl to collect money from the family for the firecrackers. She did such a great job that we almost exploded the neighbourhood!

When the excitement died down, we all ate pozole again and chicken and spaghetti and ……

Happy New Year!!!

Las Grutas de Rancho Nuevo

The nature park in the midst of a forest 10 kilometres from San Cristobal de las Casas is a wonderful place to explore. With all the pine trees, it smells like Christmas. Entering this park you hear happy voices ringing out and see many families playing and relaxing together. There are horses you can ride and a big slide, as well as many souvenir and food stands.

But the real excitement comes when you arrive at the entrance of the Grutas de Rancho Nuevo.This is an incredible cave that enters deep into the earth. There is a lit sidewalk that goes for 750 metres inside the cavern. There is a high ’ceiling’ and is fairly wide, so you don’t feel closed in. The grand stalactites and stalagmites form eerily beautiful sculptures. And the colours inside the cave are surprising. I expected grey and grey, but there are pinks, greens, blues and yellows. Under the lights, it’s like a rainbow is in there.

This cave was discovered in the mid 1940s and became a passion of one man. He explored it for over 50 years, taking many interesting pictures along the way, which are exhibited in the onsite museum. As of today, they have explored 10 kilometres and still haven’t reached the end or any exit. But the air is fresh inside, not dank, so it seems like there is fresh air entering from somewhere. I picture another entrance in a magical place like Misol-Ha. I can imagine the Mayans going through this ‘natural tunnel’ and ending in a sacred place where they would perform their mysterious rituals and ceremonies.

Legend has it that UFOs are often spotted around here. It occurred to me that maybe they can shrink themselves until they are very small so they can fit in any crack on the side of the wall of the cave. Maybe that’s why we didn’t see any…


Agua Azul, Misol-Ha and Palenque

Where do I start? With the aquamarine water flowing serenely over smoothly molded rocks like topping over an ice-cream sundae? With the vibrant pulse of water cascading 30 metres over my head? Or with the startling beauty of Palenque?

The day started with an exciting drive through a switch backed, speed bump covered narrow mountain road. We passed through isolated mountain towns where people still turn to see who is passing by. The villages here are predominantly indigenous and we saw the clothing change to brightly embroidered cotton blouses topped with satin capes. They also use these capes as aprons. Pretty clever, huh?  I wonder if this ever occurred to Superman?

Over three hours we dropped 2000 metres. Instead of pine forests and corn fields, we were surrounded by banana trees and sugar cane. We stripped off a few layers of clothing and began to sweat. This was a treat after listening to our teeth chatter in the cold morning in San Cristobal.

Our first stop was Agua Azul. This is the site of a river that is the most unbelievable colour of aquamarine. As if the colour isn’t amazing enough, the river falls over huge worn boulders creating the most wonderful waterfalls. Usually when I think of waterfalls, words like powerful, crashing, force, come into my mind. But here I thought of soft, gentle, serene, and calm. It appeared like a layer cake with yummy frosting running down the sides!

I had the overwhelming urge to take off my shoes and feel the water between my toes – so I did. It felt like it looked and it was very soothing.

From here we continued on to Misol-Ha. I had never heard of this place, except that there was a waterfall there. I had no expectations, only that I thought I’d see something ‘pretty’. Well, this waterfall took my breath away! After walking only about 100 metres from the parking lot I was transported into a magical world where Mother Nature is both King and Queen! Like most waterfalls, there is a huge rock wall with water cascading over it, but here the rock face is concave, almost in the shape of a C, so that you can walk behind the waterfall and feel part of it. There are caves burrowing into the wall.

This marvel is surrounded by dense jungle smelling rich and pungent. Huge exotic rainforest trees such as mahogany and teak tower over. For the first time in my life,   I swung on a ‘natural’ rope like Tarzan swung on!

The energy here is incredible. It is alive with the memories of sacred rituals of the ancestors. I had the overwhelming desire to create my own and just stay there.

Palenque is an archaeological site that has always piqued my interest. Because it was hidden in the jungle, but also because it remained hidden for so long. I expected to feel a gut wrenching ‘wow’ at the first glimpse of the pyramids nestled in the wild dense brush. And this is exactly how I felt. The setting is so beautiful, that the pyramids and ruins are icing on the cake. What I didn’t expect to feel was the complete absence of energy there. This site is abandoned, even the ghosts are gone. It was interesting to see, but I enjoyed being in the jungle more than exploring the archaeological site.

This is what I love most about travelling, there are always surprises. Now that I travel using all my senses instead of just sight, everything is an adventure. Coming home through the dark mountain road the sky was magnificent. I saw constellations that I have never seen before. I felt like I could reach out a grab a star for a souvenir!

El Dia de Guadalupe – The Day of Guadalupe

 December 12th is the Day of honouring Guadalupe. She is the Mexican version of mother Mary. The belief here is that she appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous man and her image was imprinted on his cloak. This happening cemented the Catholic religion inMexico.

I have seen processions on this day in other cities in previous years, but here inSan Cristobal the celebration goes on for almost a week

It is very beautiful as the people dress up in traditional costumes. The little kids are so cute. They are dressed up as little Juans or little Guadalupes and are taken to the church to be blessed. Their parents are so proud of them. You just have to show a droplet of interest and big smiles open up everywhere.

For the week before, processions and pilgrimages arrive. Some come here from other places and live like gypsies in the back of trucks. It’s like a weeklong party. The church dedicated to Guadalupe is on top of a hill with lots of stairs leading up to it. Everything is decorated beautifully with cut-out coloured paper banners, flowers and lights. At the base of the stairs there is a fair set up with carousels, ferris wheels, and dumb games that you can’t win at. And of course – many, many food booths. Saturday seems to be a night of beer as there were beer booths set up all over the walkway for about 8 blocks up to the church. Drinking in public doesn’t seem to be a problem here. So the parents have a few wet ones, while the little Juan Diegos, still in full costume, play the ripoff games at the fair.

Part of the celebration involves blowing off firecrackers in the street amongst all the people. They just shoot them off in the street indiscriminately. I learned this the hard way when suddenly I heard a sound like I’d been shot. I was only a few feet away from being ‘exploded’!

The thing that has really moved us is the young people. Most of the processions are teens and young adults – mostly male – dressed in their Guadalupe – Reina de Mexico – shirts with bandanas on their heads and singing ‘The Guadalupana’ at full voice. When they get near the door of the church, many get on their knees and shuffle all the way to the front altar like that. These are not kids doing this to satisfy their parents; these are kids living their faith. Pretty amazing to see. We are accustomed to the pilgrimages & processions in Mexico being mostly older women, but that certainly isn’t the case here in Chiapas.

It is a day of excitement. Even the taxis and motorcycles dress up to honour Guadalupe. Aztec dancers join in to the mix and the Indigenous people are all in their finest clothing to participate as well. Catholicism and paganism are both very present in the religious celebrations.

I have been curious about a couple of things: Why are there processions arriving days before Dec 12th? Where do they come from – and where do they go afterwards? Why are they coming from different places? What’s happening?

Well, a Mexican lady kindly explained it all to me. It’s like a pilgrim exchange. Various groups walk from here to other cities and other states to visit their churches and the people from those communities come here. Then everyone returns to their own home church on Dec 12th. What is amazing is that they travel great distances – for example from San CristobaltoOaxaca- and toMexico City. Walking most of the way! With a lit torch that someone runs along the side of the truck with. On one occasion, it was a Chamula woman in her full sheepskin clothing! The people return with the clothes they left in, dirty, tired and often limping (many do the trek in bare feet.) A group of children went from here to Comitlan overnight. It is about 2 hours by car, but a lot more on foot. They walked partway and rode partway. The teens walked almost all the way.

All the participants that had travelled long distances returned – most between 3 and 4pm – to celebrate this special day inSan Cristobal. The center of town was full of people welcoming them home. Party time!!!

Montebello Lakes & El Chiflon Waterfall

Another day of Adventure!  We left early in the morning only to be stopped shortly thereafter by an accident – one of the ‘collectivo’ buses (they are the minibuses – more like big vans) hit head on with a suburban. The whole town was there. Luckily the ambulances moved very quickly. Hopefully everyone was okay, the vehicles were pretty wrecked, and these vans are usually jam packed with about 20 people. With dampened spirits we continued on.

We passed lots of ejido communities. Ejidos are the Mexican version of communes. After the revolution the land was given to the campesinos to work for themselves instead of for the big rich guys. The land is mostly planted in corn. Each community has its own flavour. It seems like the ladies from one all wear blue shawls and in the next place, they all wear purple ones. I guess so they don’t forget where they belong…

We passed a fairly big city named Comitlan. The highway runs the whole length of the city – right  down  the middle for several miles. But instead of being divided with concrete, there were trees and flowering bushes livening up the lanes. Very pretty!  Soon we were immersed in thick pine forests. We visited the Lagos de Montebello – a famous chain of lakes. They are all different colours, emerald greens, turquoises, blues… Very beautiful. It was wonderful to be up in the pine forests and smell the crisp air. It was kind of drizzly for awhile, but warm. I talked with a group of students from Pueblo. They all wanted to go out on the lake in these homemade rafts but couldn’t convince the little business to give them a decent price, so they decided to spend their money on tacos. They loved that I spoke Spanish!

After we spent some time there, we loaded back up in the van and dropped down 2000 metres to see El Chiflon. This is a giant waterfall. The weather here was wonderful. We hiked straight up a mountain for a kilometre and all along you see portions of the waterfall. It is aqua coloured and very clean. But after you have climbed and sweated and think you might die, you turn a corner and see the most splendid sight -Bridal Veil Falls- really big, really high and really beautiful!!! I remember seeing this on TV and in books and being really impressed. I thought in real life it might not be so wonderful, but it is amazing. After taking a million photos, we walked back down, put on our swim suits and jumped in. We doused ourselves in the cold water and felt clean and not just physically. We baptised ourselves since we were so close to God!

These eco tours are so great, and really inexpensive. Today we went from 9am – 8:30pm and it cost 250 pesos each. That’s about $22 dollars! And they do a nice job, they give you enough time at each site to wander around and get the feel of the place instead of just snapping a few photos.

When we got back it was raining here but we went out and ate tamales of mole and chocolate atole – yummy! A perfect ending for a perfect day!


San Juan Chamula

We decided to visit a nearby Mayan village so we boarded a combi – a van that runs like a bus, but holds way less people and moves around much faster on the old cobblestone streets. It is cheaper than a taxi and generally more efficient than the buses. But it has its down side… After the driver jammed in 20 of us on 4 seats, we finally took off – only to stop 5 minutes later to fill up with gas. After that we went and filled up the tires with air. Good thing since we probably weighed 5 tons!

These collectivos are an interesting ride. You are transported into a different time and place. No one speaks Spanish. It is all Tzotzil, a Mayan dialect. And no one wears ‘regular’ clothes, they all wear sheep! All of the females, even the little girls, wear beautifully embroidered satin like blouses with wool skirts. But the wool skirts are WOOL skirts. Not felt, but black sheepskins draped around them, held up with a big woven sash. The men usually use regular jeans and shirts, sometimes with a black sheepskin vest. They always wear white sheepskins for special occasions.

Entering the Church – entering a different dimension

The church in San Juan Chamula is famous for being very different. And different it is. Although technically a Catholic church, there are no masses, no pews and no priest. In place of a priest, there are shamans who offer their services. The church is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and there are many figures of other saints lining the walls. Each saint has its own area full of candles that people have lit and placed before them. The floor is covered in pine needles. It is illegal to take pictures inside. If you do, you will go to jail.

We entered the church and immediately were overwhelmed by the energy there. It was full of candles, copal and small groups of people attending their offerings. As we were absorbed in the environment, we both burst into tears. We experienced a huge cleansing. Not of the mind but completely spiritual. We sat in the pine needles and just let the experience guide us.

 The Chamulas set up personal offerings in this church – both to ask for help and to give thanks. The offerings consist of 42 candles set on the floor in rows. The colours seem to have an importance, all though most are white. A member of the family or one of the shamans lead the ritual. When all the candles are lit, everyone drink shots of coca cola and sugar cane alcohol. They also sprinkle these on the candles.  If the offering is to give thanks for a specific thing, it culminates in the sacrifice of a chicken. They do a cleansing of their bodies holding the chicken as though it were sage. When all the family has had their turn, the chicken’s neck is broken. As a chicken has a lot of value to them, this is an important offering. They later take it home and cook it. Although this is very strange to us, it doesn’t feel strange there. Their faith is so genuine that we were profoundly moved to share this experience with them.

 We visited the San Juan Chamula Church again a week later but the energy was completely different. There was a big altar set up honouring Guadalupe (the Mexican Mother Mary).  Because it was the days of honouring her, the church had more of a ‘religious’ feel, rather than a connecting with spirit feel like before. 

 During the day there were processions arriving at the church. Most of the processions comprise of a decorated truck (or sometimes floats) full of people, followed by people walking and accompanied by someone running with a torch. Generally the runners are  Mexican youth. But this day the runner was a Tzotil woman in her traditional wool clothing. When the procession arrived at the church, the participants entered on their knees, inching slowly forward on the pine covered floor until they reached the Virgen of Guadalupe altar. There they stayed for a long time.

There were a few families making their offerings and giving gratitude but most were sitting on the floor and talking or looking at the Guadalupe altar. In this church, they drink cane alcohol as a means of raising their vibration. But today it seemed some were drinking to drink. There was a group of men sitting on chairs talking about their sheep and drinking. This church is a community, it is not a church like those we have been exposed to.

Wandering down the streets of the town, we browsed and bought a few wool items, then ate a fresh chicken roasted on carbon. As we were relaxing, a large group of men dressed in white sheepskins and straw cowboy hats passed by. They all had clubs and cell phones. These were the police. They were followed by another large group dressed in sheepskin as well, but with bandanas on their heads and leather sandals. (the auxiliary?) In the midst of all of these, was one lone guy in black sheepskin. This has the same significance in Spanish, maybe also in Tzotzil?

 San Juan Chamula is autonomous. They have their own laws and own police force. Mexican police have no authority there. They walked to the church as a procession and soon we heard more fireworks and the music got louder.

 The kids in this town have been taught to beg for pesos. But some have been taught really well how to sell. One little girl came up to me and wanted to give me a bracelet. She went on and on that I was rejecting her, wasn’t the weaving good enough, etc. Look, that lady accepted the bracelet her friend made, wasn’t she good enough…  but it is all memorized, some of them don’t speak more than the few necessary words in Spanish. But she was using pretty advanced psychology on me!

I now have a lot of  bracelets….