Carnaval in Ocozocuatla

Carnaval in Ocozocuatla

What an outrageous celebration! A gluttonous procession of color, creativity, and good cheer. And perhaps the best of all, the citizens of Ocozocuatla welcome strangers with broad gestures: Come in and dance with us! Wait a minute, let me pose for a photo! Don’t like talcum powder all over you, don’t worry, I’ll keep it in the bag…Bienvenidos! The costumes are glorious and imaginative. Every headdress is festooned with brilliant tissue paper or crepe paper flowers and steamers. Necklaces are strung with small Chicklets boxes, candy, peanuts, whatever can be...
Fiestas in San Juan Chamula

Fiestas in San Juan Chamula

Wild west cowboy hats, knee length tunics of white or black lamb’s wool, and hands inside tunics at chest height all distinguish the Tzotzil community of San Juan Chamula from its neighbor Zinacantan in the valley next door. I call it a cowboy town, a bit rough and ready for action.   The church in the center of town is what draws most visitors to Chamula. It’s here that Maya beliefs and traditions prevail over Christian practices. Statues of Catholic saints clothed in layers of heavily embroidered Maya textiles carry mirrors around their necks. Some say...
The Faces of Copoya

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...
Las Posadas

Las Posadas

“Chocolate” is the most popular character in the posada that takes place in barrio El Cerillo, San Cristóbal de Las Casas. No wonder. He’s a furry grey, petite, well mannered, ever so patient burro who carries Mary around the barrio while Joseph searches for a place to stay. Every afternoon around 4:45 between December 16 and 24, Chocolate makes his appearance. The children crowd around the doors of the church courtyard and wait for him, the star performer.   Mary in her cowboy hat and Joseph in his beard then lead the procession along with...
Los Tigres de Suchiapa

Los Tigres de Suchiapa

Suchiapa is mentioned in only a few guide books, yet it has one of the most intriguing festivals in Chiapas with a week of parades and mini-dramas.   This is the celebration of the equinox that begins on the Sunday before the Thursday of Corpus Cristi, 60 days after Easter. Parades from the various barrios make their way to the center of town. Leading each parade are the tigres, or jaguars. They stand tall in bright yellow and black-spotted suits. Then comes the “giant,” with carved and painted snake’s head and long feathered poles. Some say the tigres represent...
Parachicos of Chiapa de Corzo

Parachicos of Chiapa de Corzo

There’s obviously a fiesta going on in Chiapa de Corzo. The booths and rides are set up, although not attended since it’s the middle of the day. Tonight, however, there will be revelry and flashing lights. Chiapa de Corzo is the oldest town in Chiapas, founded in the 1500’s by the Spanish and deserted later when the heat drove them farther into the hills where they founded what is now called San Cristóbal de Las Casas. It’s a beautiful town with a lovely center square. Like most towns, Chiapa de Corzo celebrates the feast of their patron...