The Pueblo of Zinacantan
elevation is 2558 m (8392 ft), so it gets plenty of precipitation and everything is lush and green. The area reminded us of Oregon, where Carole and I lived for 20 years. While there are almost 30,000 people in the municipalidad (county), the town itself has only about 8,500. The remainder are scattered in the hills in tiny hamlets and individual farms. Of Zinacantan's population, 98% are Tzotzil-speaking Maya, and they jealously guard their culture and traditions. For a Google map showing Zinacantan and its relationship to Chamula and San Cristóbal de las Casas, click here.
walk as much as a day's journey to their milpas (small fields) in Chiapas' lowlands. There, they live and work for weeks at a time. Why not just grow flowers and import the maiz from other areas? The answer lies in the deep connection between maiz and culture. The Maya have been growing maiz since at least 2500 BC. Their famous calendars were originally developed to pinpoint the correct times for planting and harvesting. The god of maiz, Hun Nal Yeh, also known as Yum Kaax, was one of the most important deities in the Maya pantheon. The cultivation, harvesting, preparation and consumption of maiz are woven into every aspect of the traditional Maya life and worldview.
Mercado Municipal in San Cristóbal. Others may be driven hundreds of miles to Mérida in Yucatan or other distant locations. As you will soon see, the presence of beautiful flowers in Zinacantan has led to their incorporation in the designs of the textiles produced here.
An eclectic religious tradition
crosses we saw at the plaza in Chamula. In both places the crosses had a similar appearance, with green paint and circular tips. In both places, the crosses were decorated with pine wreathes. One difference was that the Chamula crosses had small circles containing 8-pointed crosses carved on the cross pieces and tips. The crosses above lack this decoration. During ceremonies, a statue or picture of a saint is sometimes placed in the niche below the crosses. In the ancient Maya religion, a cross represented the Ceiba, or World Tree. The Ceiba can be found in Chiapas' lowland areas and grows as tall as 70 m (230 ft). The huge buttress roots can be taller than a grown man, and the canopy spreads over the jungle. The Maya's World Tree has its roots in the underworld, its trunk in terrestrial life, and its canopy (represented by the cross-piece) in the heavens. A carving of the World Tree can be seen at Palenque in the ruins of the Temple of the Foliated Cross. As at Chamula, the Maya of Zinacantan seem to have retained much of their ancient beliefs, but incorporated elements of Catholicism in order to keep themselves on the right side of their Spanish overlords.
meant to protect the house.
A visit to a textile shop
Backstrap looms can be used to create brocade designs as well as plain weaves, unlike treadle (foot-powered) looms. Ixchel, the Maya moon goddess, was the patron of weaving. She was the consort of Iztamna, the father of the gods. In ancient times, Ixchel was often depicted using a backstrap loom to weave the universe. Various kinds of products can be woven on these looms, but one of the most common is the huipil (blouse) worn by Maya and other indigenous women.
wedding huipil is called a k'uk'umal chil il. White chicken feathers are woven into the embroidery. This wedding huipil is longer than the ones used for daily wear. It is worn with a dark, embroidered skirt.
San Cristóbal's Catedral, as well as at the mercado surrounding the Templo Santo Domingo, and the crafts booths in Chamula. However, they are likely to be more expensive at those locations.
Templo San Lorenzo Martyr
San Lorenzo (St. Lawrence) was one of seven deacons in the early Church in Rome. He was born in Spain in 225 AD and martyred in Rome during the persecutions of Emperor Valerian in 258 AD. As a deacon, one of his jobs was to protect the treasures of the Church. Another was assisting the poor and the sick. When a Roman official demanded that Lorenzo turn over the treasures, he concealed them, including (according to legend) the Holy Grail, the chalice Christ used at the Last Supper. The deacon then gathered all the poor and sick and presented them, saying "this is our treasure!" The official ordered Lorenzo to be slowly roasted alive on a grille. The legend say he felt little pain because he was already on fire with his faith. After he had roasted for a while on one side, he famously said "I'm well done. Turn me over!" As a result, he is the patron of cooks and chefs, among others.
Dominican friars constructed the first church in Zinacantan church in 1546. That early structure was made of adobe with a thatched roof. The bishop of Chiapas at the time was Bartolome de las Casas, the great defender of the indigenous people of Nueva España. He donated a library, jewels, and two great clocks. The church has been rebuilt several times since then. The most recent reconstruction occurred during the 19th Century when the interior was decorated in its present Neo-classical style. Note the colorful banners, similar to those strung in the plaza for the August fiesta.
This concludes Part 13 of my Chiapas series. I hope you have enjoyed it and learned something about the wonderfully creative Maya of Zinacantan. I always welcome feedback, questions, and corrections. If you would like to do so, please leave your thoughts in the Comments section below, or email me directly. If you use the Comments section and yours don't immediately appear, it is because I moderate all comments to eliminate spam and there is therefore a short delay.
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Hasta luego, Jim