SAN  JUAN  CHAMULA



Major Feasts

San Sebastian                   January 19 - 23
Carnival                            February
Semana Santa                   Holy Week
San Juan Bautista             June 24
Santa Rosa de Lima         August 29 - 30
San Mateo                        September 19 - 21
Virgen del Rosario           October 7
Día de los Muertos           November 1,2
Navidad                           December 25
Año Nuevo                      January 1













        The inhabitants of Macuil, Romerillo, Bautista Grand, Cruz Quemada, Cheikvil Tenal and Cruz Ton, are governed by the municipo of San Juan Chamula.   Speaking Tzotzil and some Spanish, the villagers dress in the traditional garments of their region.  Their religion mixes Mayan mythology with Catholic tradition.  The population of San Juan Chamula is exclusively Catholic.

It is one of 111 municipalities in Chiapas established by the Spanish during the colonial period as a means of segregating native people from the Criollo (Spanish) and Mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish) populations.  This highland community is the center of government, culture and commerce for a number of surrounding villages that stretch deep into the elevations.  Medicine and education are hardly accessible to the population due to mountainous distances between communities and public resources.  Malnutrition plagues Chamula and its townships. 

The list of rebellions in Chamula is continuous and the village is historically important for taking up arms against San Christobal in 1868 thus signaling the beginning of indigenous involvement in the War of the Castes.

Approximately 59,005 inhabitants of the Chiapas Highlands (INEG census 2003) consider themselves Chamulans although with recent displacements the numbers are in constant fluctuation.  In addition to rebel and paramilitary activities, the recent arrival of Protestant missionaries from "the west" has presented a crisis in Chamula.  Converts are violently expelled from the municipio villagers insuring the Catholic population of Chamula is absolute.

The continually volatile political situation in Chiapas combined with the xenophobia characteristic of Chamula villagers makes an ethnology of the Zapatista Dolls difficult and, at times, seemingly impossible.  Preservation of ancient culture amidst current politics makes cultural research so difficult that the well-know scholar on Chamula society Gary Gossen has suspended his project of recording Chamula oral mythology.  "In short" he explains, "the social tranquility necessary for further elaboration of this project as an on- going collaborative effort of transcription and translation in the company of native storytellers has disappeared, at least for the present and near future."   ( Four Creations xx)

Many aspects of Tzotzil culture have vanished under a blanket of secrecy. Few locals are willing to share information about their villages and when they do, it is often with vague, unconvincing speech that reflects whatever the questioner seems to want to hear.  The locals have an astute ability to understand and divert the cultures that come to observe them. Chamula maintains its privacy and ancient heritage despite the intrusion of rapid globalization.  Its indigenous inhabitants have become experts in reconfiguring the global perspective and responding to it with a voice that is uniquely their own.  The Zapatista dolls are an excellent example.