兩旁有約二十多個能放得下一個人大小的玻璃箱，每個裏面供奉了一個天主教聖人的像，比如San Pedro, San Miguel, San Sebastian之類，還包括有耶蘇和聖母。
Chiapas is the region where the most indigenous groups live in Mexico. They are descendants from the Mayas, and many villages still exist in Chiapas.
Today, we went on a tour to visit the villages. The tour was very average, so was the guide but with the stories that our hosts told, we can totally write a blog about it.
Since the Spanish conquered Central and South America, one of the biggest change they made is make Catholic the national religion. All the countries we visited here have the religion been introduced in the 16th century, and now almost everyone is Catholic. Although some of their churches are different from those in Europe and have a strong indigenous style, but they are still in principle catholic churches.
The cathedral in Chamula is completely different.
The outside has a special colour but other than that, it doesn't look much of a big deal. But it is a different story when you are inside.
In the cathedral, there are no seats, no altar, none of the elements you can see if a catholic church are found inside... replaced by something else.
Along two sides of the walls, there are around twenty glass box about the size of a man. There is a statue of one saint inside each box, e.g. San Pedro, San Miguel, San Sebastian, etc. it also has Jesus and Virgin Mary.
In front of each Saint, there is a table, full of flowers and candles and there is a big space in front. The believers bring a lot of things to pray. Let me describe what we saw.
- They usually come as a family, from grandparents to kids, and sit in front of one of the Saints.
- They bring many candles of different colours and size (each colour means something, eg. green represents mother Earth). They fix the candles on the floor in rows, from big to small, with the smallest closest to the people and light them all.
- They start praying. The prayers are also a combination of catholic and Maya.
- Apart from candles, their offerings also include Coca Cola... I see some other soft drinks but mainly it is coca cola (OMG!)
- They also have sacrifice, they bring a live chicken. We did not have a chance to see the whole thing but we understand they believe that the bad spirits or sickness will be transferred to the chicken and then they will kill the chicken by twisting its neck and throw it in trash. By doing that, the bad spirit of illness will be cleared.
Although the rituals that they practise are completely not catholic, the Saints that they worship are catholic saints... I guess that is unique, I have never seen something like that.
There is a shaman in charge, it is also the Maya doctor. The villagers will come and see him when they are sick. He also will check your pulse like what Chinese doctors do, and diagnose the disease. The shaman will cure the patient using one of all of prayers, rituals, traditional medicinal plants, etc.
Apart from the in charge shaman, each Saint in the charge also has a few mayadormos (not sure if I get this word correct), each will serve the Saint for one year. During this one year, they need to make sure they put lots of fresh flowers and candles and clean up the area for the Saint. They not only not get paid, they need to spend around USD 20,000 each year to worship the Saint. However, since this is an honor, people wait on the list for years to be a Mayadormo. You can save money during the time you wait. Some people run out of money during the one year and companies will give them credit and they pay later by installments.
The indigenous people here have driven the catholic church away for a long time. Apart from the baptism, they do not perform any catholic rituals.
Apart from region, they also have their own laws and their own officers. E.g. tourists are not allowed to take any pictures in public or religious venues. Tourists have to be very careful about taking pictures, or they may be arrested. Our host said there was an American who went there on his own and take pictures everywhere. He was arrested and put in jail, one which is a steel cage in open area, for one full day before he was released. If you get into trouble here, you can lose your live.
Why? because they still have death penalties here.
Our host told us that, about two years ago, someone in the village rape and kill a girl. Of course, that is a serious crime, he was sent for death penalty and was burnt to death in the public square!
In the indigenous community, man and woman are not equal, the same old stories that we heard many times... Apart from that, kids don't go to school. Their way of education started when kids are 4 or 5 but they only teach girls to weave and boys to farm. In their community, education does not give them any job opportunity or money because there is no professionals in their community. The rarely educated people will leave the villages and work outside in the cities.
In our tour, a few tourists found this very unacceptable, but this is what they value in the indigenous communities. As people who grow up by a different set of values, we will never understand.
P.S. Since I cannot take any pictures, we bought two postcards that shows what happen inside.