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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Old Mexico: San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan - Page 4

Written by Kelly West
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These colors were chosen as they are representative of the different colors of corn that are available in this region and throughout Mexico, and corn is as important to Mexicans as rice is to many parts of Asia. There is also a multi-colored candle which is used in ceremonies to ward off envy or jealousy. The eggs are used to clean and purify by passing them over the person and also to diagnose illness in babies. 


One example of this is that when a baby is born, it is kept out of the public for a particular period of time. The reason for this is that the parents do not want their baby to be exposed to what they call the "evil eye", which usually results in sickness. The reasoning behind this is that all babies are born without our pretense or prejudice. Babies are a clean slate and only learn negativity and other bad influences from those around them. Native Mexicans believe that a baby will fall ill if they are exposed to negative forces too early in their life. 


Raul also explained that Shamans can diagnose illness in babies by cracking the egg open in a bowl and interpreting the illness in the way the egg cracked open in the bowl, in much the same way people read tea leaves, tarot cards etc.


The people who live in San Juan and Chamula and in Zinacantan are some of the most content people I have ever seen. They know their place in the world and they are happy with it. They do not feel the need to grab a soapbox, take it to the Zocalo in San Cristobal and start preaching to the people about how their form of Christianity is wrong. They don't see the need to knock on your door on a Sunday afternoon asking if you've accepted Christ into your life, yet this is what is happening to them. Their culture and traditions are slowly being eroded by evangelicals and fundamentalists who see their way of life as wrong, as backward, as barbaric. 


The natives are being force fed traditional Catholicism, Mormonism, Seventh-Day-Adventism, as well as a whole host of other Christian religions, at the detriment of their own ancient beliefs and customs. These new missionaries use basic necessities like health-care to convert natives to what they want them to believe or what they think they should believe, with no regard for the century’s old traditions and culture that we should be doing our utmost to preserve. 


The new missionaries see the natives and their beliefs as backward and intolerant to change. But who is intolerant here? The native Mexicans have accepted Catholicism, but on their own terms, who embrace technology without allowing it to affect their culture and take pride in their way of life. Who are we to tell them this is wrong? 


The other pressure the natives feel comes from large companies who, under the banner of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), come to Mexico and forcefully take native land to mine gold, amber etc. Once they're done taking all they want they simply return this infertile, useless land to their rightful owners. Any wonder why these people are so fiercely proud and protective of their culture?


At the end of the day we were happy to have been given the opportunity to take a glimpse into real, ancient Mexico. We got a little taste of how life was before the Conquistadors arrived which deepened our respect for Mexico and for its people. A people that have resisted so many attempts at occupation, only to face new attempts at occupation from a different part of the world, in a time when we should be cherishing their differences in beliefs and culture and making every attempt to protect them.


I'll just grab my soapbox from the Zocalo and go home to my casita now.



© Kelly West


(Page 4 of 4)
Last modified on Tuesday, 01 July 2014

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