Witnessing Religious Mestizaje in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico
Chicken feathers and straw are strewn on the floor beneath dramatic wooden sculptures of bloodied saints, their eyes imploring passersby and promising answered prayers. And the prayers come hand in hand with Coca Cola and sacrificed poultry. The syncretized religion in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas—part Christianity, part indigenous, and part modern folk beliefs—demonstrates the mixture and unexpected adaptations that have taken place in many parts of a country built on contrasting cultures. Here they drink Coca Cola to purge themselves of evil spirits with each carbonation-induced burp. Entire families kneel beside altars, whispering in tongues incomprehensible to non-natives. Photographs are strictly forbidden due to the locals’ beliefs about spirit snatching, so save those for the endless fields of cemetery outside, especially beautiful during Day of the Dead when the grounds are covered in vibrantly-colored flowers and sentimental offerings.