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San Lorenzo Zinacantán, Chiapas


We walked down the hill from the extraordinary Day of the Dead activity at Chamula’s cemetery and loaded into the van for the ride to the smaller nearby village of San Lorenzo Zinacantán, home to about 3900 Tzotzil Mayas. I had no particular expectations, had given it no thought, but I suppose I assumed that what we’d see was another, smaller-than-Chamula version of Dia de los Muertos. As we descended toward Zinacantán César pointed out fields and greenhouses where the flowers the town is known for are grown. Parking on the edge of town we found the tidy village utterly deserted. After the day’s excitement so far, it was a shock. I was so surprised I didn’t even think to ask “Where is everyone?” My best guess was that everyone had gone to Chamula. Or zombies.

César walked us uphill a couple of blocks and turned into a courtyard that was occupied by 3 women, weavers. One was working outside on a backstrap loom, an older woman inside cooking tortillas on a comal over an open fire in the center of a good-sized room and the third, I suspect daughter of the first and granddaughter of the second, was hanging out, as kids do.


The gray scarf on the left came home with me,
actually a fine black & gray pattern.

I don’t know what visitors do in Zinacantán when the residents are there, maybe exactly what we were doing, admiring the weaving and deciding what to buy. The colorful woven and embroidered items were beautiful, here we were, so buying something was a given, whether we’d planned on shopping or had also given that no thought, as I hadn’t.

Zinacantán5Zinacantán6The "Bell Building" above, the temporary sanctuary below.

When the exchanges were complete we thanked the ladies and were thanked in return, then headed back down the hill toward where we were parked. It was then I realized the enormity of the damage to the town’s large main church, Iglesia de San Lorenzo. There had been a fire in 1975 and the church was rebuilt. But recently two destructive earthquakes had shaken southern Mexico, first in Chiapas, September 2017, magnitude 8.2, then February 2018 in nearby Oaxaca, 7.2. A corrugated steel building had been erected on the church grounds for use while the extensive repairs to their historic church were ongoing. Of the permanent structures that made up the San Lorenzo church complex only one, called the bell building, was intact, freshly painted, the entrance decorated, a stark contrast with the rest behind it.

After a few minutes in the temporary church and a survey of the damage to the old one there was nothing left to do but load up again for the drive back to San Cristóbal. We were dropped where we began, in front of the cathedral which, like most of the churches in the area, was draped in plastic and shuttered behind metal fencing and now I knew why. Another trip to Chiapas will be in order, to see renewed temples, churches and cathedrals, if the earthquake gods allow.


Below, Iglesia de San Lorenzo before the earthquakes . . .


. . . and after.




Find all episodes of  'A Month in Chiapas'  here.


More PortMoresby stories here.




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