Behind closed doors…

Ever wanted the perfect excuse for regular and or loud belching?

Well I think we have the answer for you!

A short ten minute colectivo ride from San Cristobal lies the town of San Juan Chamula, an unassuming, or perhaps unexpected is more appropriate a word, tourist site.

The town itself is inhabited by indigenous Tzotzil Maya people who have a unique realm of autonomy within the jumbled structure of Mexico.

Federal and State powers hold none, or at least little authority here, instead the place is administered by their own police force, none of which was apparent to us.

But it is the towns religious practices, rather than its unique political status that is their real drawcard, and the reason we decided to spend our last morning in San Cristobal making the journey out here.

San Juan Chomula's colourful and mysterious church

San Juan Chomula’s colourful and mysterious church

The people here practice a unique form of Catholicism here, apparently a blend of the church and traditional Mayan beliefs.

Ceremonies are performed to ward off evil spirits, or protect loved ones as they pass into the afterlife through scattering of pine needles, huge candle burning ceremonies, offerings of posh (alcohol) or carbonated drinks such as soda, and in the odd occasion, ritual sacrifice (usually the slaying of a chicken, a practice we failed to witness).

A somewhat shy and secretive lot, this isn’t something we can easily share, as photography is in fact banned within the towns main church where much of this transpires.

After paying our entry fee to the church, we solemnly wandered about watching some of these events in play, before deciding to take our leave and wander out to another, older church we’d spied on the approach to town.

Some ancient and others not so. Graves amidst the towns cemetery

Some ancient and others not so. Graves amidst the towns cemetery

The ten minutes or so it took us to find revealed that it was more than just a church, but the ruins were actually surrounded by a large, and very much still in use, cemetery.

Mounds of pine needles lay piled everywhere, and plastic soda bottles were in abundance, although at least in this case it was at least more than simply Mexicans and their bad littering habits.

We took it in from several angles, investigated the old ruined church as best as possible (perhaps accidentally stumbling over the odd burial mound as we wandered), before moving along.

Pine needle covers and the ruined church

Pine needle mounds, headstones and the ruined church

A wooded hill seemed to tower over the town, so having spied a set of steps to its summit, we decided to investigate, hoping for a decent view at lest.

At its crest stood a pair of brightly painted (and pine needle decorated) green crosses, but sadly no view of the town. All there was for us to do was descend down a second set of steps on the hills other side, where a local had conveniently thought it a perfect location for a morning sleep.

It was an interesting enough place for a short visit, and the experience inside the church was actually pretty cool. A morning was easily more than enough time, and it probably paid that we managed to get in and out before many of the day tripping tour groups arrived as well!

No more than a glimpse...

No more than a glimpse…

So why our opening comments about belching?

Well around these parts that’s seen as the purging of evil spirits, so if there is any merit at all in this fact, then we indeed have a lot of pure folk amongst those we call family and friends…


* Colectivos run to San Juan Chomula from a station on Calle Honduras for a cost $15.00 pesos one way. For the return leg, colectivos assemble right beside the towns main square .

* Entry into San Juan Chomula’s main church will cost you $20.00 pesos, and remember, photography is strictly forbidden (or the local authorities will have their way with you).

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One Response to Behind closed doors…

  1. No, never had the urge or excuse to belch! Haha! Enjoying your travel blog! 🙂

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