The Faces of Copoya

Copoya is a small town just south of Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas, and about an hour from La Joya Hotel San Cristóbal. Eventually the sprawl of Tuxtla will devour it, but for now it retains its identity in its traditions. On the Sunday before Lent, Copoya celebrates Carnival as it has always done, with a queen, “bull fighters,” gigantes, school kids, a few floats, a casual band, and women dressed in traditional costumes.

 

When I looked at the photos from our morning in Copoya, I was intrigued by the faces, young and old, masked, and painted. There’s a queen. Not the usual 18-year-old, but a petite beautiful woman of many years with sparkling eyes and weathered skin. There are women of the fields carrying plants in head-strap baskets and women of the faith in their shawls with the image of the Virgin de Guadalupe. And there’s a simple but huge female “gigante” of papier-mâché that sways above the crowd along with her male counterpart.

 

An unusual bull fighting circus plays out over and over again as youth with blackened faces hold up red scarves to taunt the “bull” carried by an older black-faced man. When we asked why his face was black, one of the boys replied that it’s because he is a Maya. Someday we’ll verify this interpretation since the Maya in the highlands are also represented with white faces in the Corpus Christi fiesta in nearby Suchiapa.

 

Parachicos from Chiapa de Corzo are also a part of the parade. In multi-colored serapes, painted masks, and headdresses, they twirl, fling their arms into the air, and shake their tin rattles. They’re always a favorite, and fortunately for the preservation of Mexico’s cultural heritage, the younger generations are donning the traditional costumes and practicing their dancing skills in these fiestas. The youngest Parachico in the parade kept up with the practiced ones until it was just too much. Covering his face with his scarf, he stopped dancing and then found himself the only one on the dance floor.

 

The faces of Copoya . . . it was fun to be the only “gringos” and to be greeted so warmly in this friendly town in the lowlands of Chiapas.

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