On Thursday, we spent the day outside of San Cristobal de Las Casas, on the road to Tenejapa village, Romerillo Maya cemetery and then to the home of Maruch and her son Tesh in the Chamula district of Chiapas.
Taking registrations now for 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour.
Small doorways open from the street into hardware stores, pharmacies, bakeries, tienditas (little stores), dry goods suppliers. The inside is often obscure. Sometimes, there are textile treasures — hand embroidery, traditional clothing made on back strap looms — hanging on clothes lines. You have to look for them.
Tenejapa. Still remote enough that foreign visitors are an anomaly. Children and adults are curious, shy and distant. I saw about six Europeans in addition to our group during this market day.
The population of Tenejapa is 99.5% indigenous. About 99.8% speak an indigenous language, and almost 53% speak only their native language and do not speak Spanish. Health care services and educational opportunities are limited. Maya culture and traditional folk practices are strong.
The Maya practice syncretism, a blend of mystical pre-Hispanic beliefs and Spanish Catholicism. Mostly, they are spiritual and keep their connection to ancient traditions.
The Romerillo cemetery is on a grand hill overlooking a valley. Wood planks cover graves so that the living can communicate with and ask advice from the dead.
Maruch and her family raise their own sheep, shear and wash the wool, card and spin. Sheep are sacred, raised for their fleece and not for food.
Join us for the 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour. We are accepting registrations now.
We are an hour away from San Cristobal de Las Casas, but it feels as if time stands still here and we are standing in a place that could have been 500 years ago. Isolation preserves culture, but it also marginalizes native peoples.
Sheep wool skirts and capelets are made to look like a furry animal, repel moisture and keep people warm. There is no heat and it’s chilly at 7,000 feet altitude in February.
We finished off the day with a visit to a new cooperative in the city that names the weaver of each garment with a featured photo on the hang tag. Recognition is finally coming to the women who do the work! We did our best to support them.