Trip Start Sep 30, 2013
88Trip End May 31, 2014
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Sunday 24th November, 21:30
After another exciting day I find myself on the night bus. It is very comfortable, except for the cold breeze generated by the vicious air conditioning (and yes I do have my individual vent turned off). Therefore I am wrapped in my Liskerret choir fleece with my high altitude trekking coat over my legs and all is well. For the first half (by distance) we use the Pan-American highway which runs the length of the 2 continents except for a gap between Panama and Columbia. Then we turn inland and climb through mountains. By that time it will be dawn and I am expecting some great views.
... 1am - there is little sleep to be had! The highway winds like the road from Trerulefoot to Looe and feels like it is cobbled. Every now and then we pass through a habitation and the brakes moan as the bus negotiates an aggressive Reduccio de Velocitat (speed bump). It must take years off the life of the bus, not to mention the driver.
Out of the window familiar stars look strange. Orion is on his side and the half moon is horizontal instead of vertical as we see it in Europe.
We reach our hostel at 7:30 and take some rest.
Tuesday 26th November
Some 30% of Mexicans are pure blooded indigenous. In this state, Chiapas, historically a Mayan stronghold, there are dozens of different indgenous languages. As recent as 1994 there was an armed uprising by Zapotistas. We watched a Canadian documentary about it and (not suprisingly) the situation is complex.
We visited 2 nearby villages where indigenous Tzotzil people have apapted better than many to modern times. In the nearby village of Zinacatán they showed us traditional ways of weaving and cooking tortilla (it was the best tortilla we have ever tasted!). Our guide was an indigenous type himself, though not a Tzotzil. He explained their customs, particularly relating to marriages which are, of course, arranged. Instead of the woman's familly providing a dowry, the prospective husband has to pay the money.
Thence to the amazing church of San Juan in Chamula, a town that has its own police force and has a unique autonomy within Mexico. The Catholic mass is no longer practiced here. Instead the practices are Mayan but directed towards Christian statues and images - hedging their bets, I reckon. There was a very powerful spiritual feeling in the church.
Wednesday 27th November
Toniná is a Mayan city that flourished from 200 - 900 AD, making it contemporary with Monte Alban and Teutiwachan, but there are obvious differences in architectural style and building technique. For all these mesoamerican civilizations the key factor which enabled them to support such populations was the development of agriculture and the cultivation of maize. There appears to have been considerable war like competition between neighboring communities, with the sacrifice by decapitation of rival leaders being a popular pastime.