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Journals from Oaxaca, Mexico

2011-05-30 Chiapas

Snakes….I hate snakes…

Gratefully, I didn’t see any on our trip to the wonderful state of Chiapas, Mexico but I did see some monkeys, exotic plant life, friends of the aviary variety, and MAYAN ruins….total Indiana Jones-style, I might add…cue the theme music Duh duh duhdaaaah! Duh duh daaaaaah…

The last week/weekend of April/ First of May were spent learning about the Mayan people, past- present in Chiapas. We first traveled to and stayed in the city of Palenque which we used as our home base while visiting the ruins of Bonampak, Yaxchilán, and, of course,  Palenque. It was beyond hot and humid but we got to travel down a river, which borders Guatemala, talk to some howler monkeys, and , did I mention before, the ruins? I especially enjoyed seeing IN PERSON at Bonampak in the Temple of the Murals the two male figures exchanging in conversation that grace the far wall of the Spanish classroom back at Linfield

We had enough time that we were able to go to two very magnificent waterfalls, Cascada Misol-Ha and Agua Azul. Misol-Ha is reminiscent of South Falls at Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park and it was neat that we were able to see these two places and have that little break.

We also studied and visited the city of San Cristóbal, which according to group consensus, is one of the coolest little cities EVER. The streets were clean, we had fresh pesto at a little local restaurant and we were also able to visit some nearby villages where we witnessed present-day Mayans and their culture/ traditions.  We went to the church of San Juan Chamula. The church in San Juan Chamula is only lit by candles and on its walls hang portraits of the different saints. There are no pews, and the floor is covered with pine boughs. Apparently one of the rituals done in this church involves the sacrifice of a chicken, so part of the purpose of the boughs was to mask what you think would need to be masked. The idea behind the ritual is amazing. If someone is gravely ill or has a bad spirit, the animal will be carried over and across their body until all the negative energy is transferred into it, and then the animal is killed. Something that really stuck with me when hearing about that, however, was how very similar this ritual was to other rituals I have read about, including those of the Hmong people, originally of Asia (whom I studied last semester in a Communications course with professor Sandra Lee). The Hmong have a semi-comparable ritual called the hu plig, which involves a pig. Getting back to Mexico, though, in a small village right outside of San Cristóbal, a very kind family shared with us beans and tortillas made from blue corn. Part of their trade included the making of various textiles, and Greg Larson and Katrina Amsberry got dressed up in traditional men and women garb.

We ended our trip with a day trip to Cañon del Sumidero National Park, which is an eco reserve located on the Grijlva River, and includes a massive canyon. We took a boat ride down the river, through the canyon until we reached the hydroelectric dam where the river’s water fills the reservoir. The canyon itself is so important that it’s featured on the coat of arms for the state of Chiapas and the park is home to so much rich wildlife, including spider monkeys, pelicans, and the American Crocodile---all of which we saw on the boat ride.   

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