Outdoor,photography,coffee, nature, food and culture lover; seeker of life's simple pleasures.
Published August 25th 2015
A town loyal to it's indigenous legacy
Only a 30 minute drive from the iconic and colourful town of San Cristobal de las Casas, in the middle of the Chiapas highlands, lies the town of San Lorenzo Zinacantan, more commonly known as Zinacantan.
The word Zinacantan comes from the Nahuatl language and it means "land of bats", residents to these mountainous regions speak Tzotzil, a dialect or ramification of the Maya language.
Before Spanish conquerors arrived, this small town already had a trade system with Aztecs of salt, cacao, tobacco and coffee. As its climate was semi tropical, it made was easy for them to grow such products.
The XVI century saw the arrival of Dominican monks in the area, who built a chapel, and were expelled from the town by the local government years later.
With influence from both their indigenous and Spanish culture, religion and traditions, the town of Zinacantan is another great example to be experienced by all the senses; the fusion of polytheist and monotheist religions and the pure indigenous blood which gives Zinacantecos particular features and physical qualities, however you may also see "mestizos" people from indigenous and European parents.
You can easily get to Zinacantan in a combi (public transport) or taxi from San Cristobal de las Casas. The landscape is like no other, you will see how locals live, work their land and experience life. You must be aware, unlike San Cristobal de las Casas; Zinacantan is not as developed or touristic, so it is no amusement park, restaurants are scarce, shops are almost non existent and locals go on about their daily lives. To some people this might seem boring or ordinary. However if you are interested in seeing behind the scenes of tourist places, this is a gorgeous town to visit, and with a little imagination you can blend into their way of life and find amusement in the simple things this small town offers.
Zinacantan is popular for its traditional weaving and embroidering of clothing garments, tapestries, scarves and shawls and handcrafted bags. The richness in the colours and patterns are absolutely mesmerising. When you arrive to the town you will be greeted by small groups of women offering you a tour of their community. They will walk with you to a close by home, where you will be able to see these local women in action. You can also purchase garments and ask them about their town, its history and their social system.
The main square is the home to a beautiful and perfectly well kept chapel, the Capilla de San Lorenzo. No photographs are allowed, so you should be aware of this and respect the fact that locals want to preserve these things for their people.
If you are booking a tour or would like to arrange transport to this town, it is best to do so on Sundays as this is when the local market is open and most locals come out to do their trading and interact with each other.
So head to this small traditional village and find beauty in its simplicity, history and landscape. It may not be a commercial resort, but it will give you a true perspective of how diverse Mexico is and how true indigenous communities have kept their culture, beliefs and ways of living almost intact from the world the rest of us live in.