So, you’re going to visit San Cristobal de las Casas … Just to make sure you’re not overlooking the little paragraph in your guide book that says ‘Go, see Chamula, indigenous market and church’.
Here you go:
GO!! SEE CHAMULA!! THE CHURCH IS MAGICAL!!!
Ok, I hope you’ve seen it now and the importance is clear. Yes, there are many magical places in Mexico, like the 83 so called Pueblo Magico (by the Tourism board of Mexico) for example. Even San Cristobal de las Casas is on that Pueblo Magico list. I personally thought San Cristobal is nice and well worth a multiple day visit but I missed the magic.
Now 10 km North of San Cristobal de las Casas is the small town San Juan Chamula. It’s entirely indigenous. Make sure to check out their market on Sunday. Indigenous people come from their village in the mountains to Chamula to sell the fruits of their work, be it handmade clothing, artwork or vegetables and fruits, for example huge blackberries.
The buildings look like in other small towns in Mexico including the church. From the outside, it’s a regular, small, Christian church. But go inside!! It’s truly magical!
Women wear long, black goat skin skirts. And men sometimes wear knee-long sweaters made from the same material. Even when it’s blazing hot.
You can’t take any pictures, photographs, videos in the church. Respect that or you’re in trouble.
Now get inside. And for a moment you might think something is missing. And then you realize that there is not a single bench in the church. It might take a little longer till you realize this since the massive amount of candles have created a thick, smokey air.
Make sure not to slip on the carpet of pine needles. Actually really watch your step because there are very thin candles everywhere.
Families are sitting on the floor, with rows of more candles in front of them. Hear the chanting in maya language, see the chickens that they’ve brought to sacrifice to get rid of evil things and diseases. See the Coca Cola bottles they brought for burping and releasing the bad things inside their bodies.
If you have some time sit down and be there in the moment with them. You might also see the figures of Saints that have to look at the wall instead of the church visitors. It’s a place full of mysteries.
I’d go again. Just to sit in the church and be in this other world for some time.
Good to know
- Bring cash! Small bills! We had a couple of times problems paying with 200 peso bills. The people in this town aren’t used to ‘that big bills’ and you might run into problems paying your lunch.
- Entrance fee to the church is 25 pesos. They buy new pine needles with the money.
- Stephanie from the blog Discovering Ice also reports to have seen the goat skin clothing in white color. Read her article about Chamula, Chiapas | One Strange Little Town and Its Very Famous Church. I don’t know why she says that the church or the town is famous but the article is great.
- Also a good and very detailed read: Philip Coppens | Christians don’t worship here any more…
How to get there
- Take your car
- Take a colectivo from San Cristobal
- Take a tour, maybe this one from Alex and Raul
- Find a long list of ways to get to Chamula from San Cristobal including hiking and biking on this great article about Top 15 Things To Do in San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico (check point 7 for Chamula)