Travel Journal: Mexico
From La Selva Lacandona, the curving roads took us through the multiple small villages of this state known for its indigenous communities. We saw log huts, thatched roofs, and many crop fields still smoldering from the slash and burn agriculture. Even on the bus we were witnessing some of the most gorgeous land of Mexico and the true faces of its people going about their daily business.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas welcomed us with busy cobblestone streets and remarkable artesenías (handcrafts). Nestled in a cozy valley and surrounded by enticing mountains, San Cristóbal de Las Casas is what one would get by combining a historical European city with a general Mexican city. It still strongly emits its original colonial ambience. From this base, we ventured out on many different adventures for the next four days.
The religion of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and the surrounding villages developed through the means of syncretism. The people have created a very unique religion that is unknown elsewhere. It combines Catholicism and traditional indigenous beliefs. The result is very intense, ritual-rich practices. We were visiting during the very important Semana Santa (Holy Week), and therefore we were able to witness multiple interesting ceremonies, including a cleaning of an image of Jesus Christ, the large consumption of pox (an alcohol produced from maíz) as part of the rituals, and a sedated chicken brought for sacrifice. Unfortunately, the churches and people won't allow any photos to be taken inside the churches for fear that they'll be criticized for their rare practices. The churches were remarkably exquisite, nevertheless, filled with candles and sweet pine incense.
After weaving lessons, horseback riding, and trips to national park lakes, we took a short jaunt across the border to Guatemala, shopped for remarkable handcrafts and amber jewelry in the daily mercado, and climbed 1,000+ stairs up to Velo de Novia (Veil of the Bride) waterfall. That was followed by a boat tour through Cañón del Sumidero which included a monkey and large hungry crocodiles free of charge. I returned to Mérida pondering how blessed I am to have amazing camaraderie among our group, professor Julie James, and our wonderful tour guide David. "Remarkable" and every synonym of that word can't begin to describe the venture I've been experiencing within and the opportunities to grow as a student, human, and global citizen. The abundance of memories will sprinkle a smile over my heart for the rest of my life.
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