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Describe Juan Chamula's Adventure and Explain the Significance of His Journey

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One of the most interesting stops on a recent trip through Chiapas was in a small town just outside San Cristobal de las Casas called San Juan Chamula. Our excellent guide Roberto had informed us on the way to the town that its people were some of the last Mayans to succumb to the Spanish and that their rebellious spirit has lived on since as the town currently holds a special autonomous status within Mexico. No outside police forces are permitted in the town. In terms of religion, the church of San Juan Chamula has gained legendary status due to its complex mixture of Christian and Pagan beliefs.

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The Chamulas have always been a fiercely independent people. As part of the Tzotzil community, they resisted the Spanish upon their arrival in 1524 and later staged a famous rebellion in 1869, attacking the nearby colonial settlement of San Cristobal. The small town, about 10km (6 miles) from San Cristobal, is a key attraction as part of a tour of local villages around San Cristobal and is best experienced with the help of a local guide, who can give insight and local knowledge that will help you to make some sense of the distinct culture and customs practiced here. San Juan Chamula is the principal town of the Tzotzils, with a population of around 80,000— it is also the main religious and economic center of the community. Like neighboring Zinacatan, the Chamulas also are very private people. They do not tolerate well people taking pictures of them or their temples

See Photography section. Like other indigenous communities in this region, they can be identified by the clothes they wear: in this case distinctive purples and pinks predominate. All the clothes they wear are hand made locally. The wool on the sheep, cleaning, dyes and knitting are all obtained “in-house”: nothing is purchased externally. Sheep are sacred here: they are treated, protected and mourned on passing as any other member of the family. If you are driving through this region take extreme precautions with sheep that may wander into the road.

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As has been noted, if you’re looking for an incredible experience, San Juan Chamula is the most culturally unique, indigenous town in all of Mexico. They display a commitment to their ancestral traditions that is truly impressive. It is a testament to the strength of their community despite centuries of colonization, evangelization, and modernization.

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