Templo de San Juan

Top choice church in San Juan Chamula

Standing beside the main plaza, Chamula’s main church is a ghostly white, with a vividly painted arch of green and blue. Inside the darkened sanctuary, hundreds of flickering candles, clouds of copal incense, and worshippers kneeling with their faces to the pine-needle-carpeted floor make a powerful impression. Chamulans revere San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist) above Christ, and his image occupies a more important place in the church.

Chanting curanderos (literally ‘curers’; medicine men or women) may be rubbing patients’ bodies with eggs or bones, and worshippers often drink soft drinks (burps are believed to expel evil spirits) or copious amounts of pox (alcohol made from sugarcane). Images of saints are surrounded with mirrors and dressed in holy garments.

You must obtain tickets (M$70) at the tourist office beside the plaza before entering.

Nearby, around the shell of an older church, is the village graveyard. Though it’s no longer practiced, traditionally black crosses were for people who died old, white for the young, and blue for others.