Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Having spent a month learning Spanish I am now capable of conversing in 3 types of past tense, present and a form of "irreal" future tense. I am also capable of explaining the joys of my new favourite word: "Trabajaba". Not only does this word roll off the tongue in a most delightfully amusing way (for native English speakers at least), it also means "worked". Yes, in past tense. Cuando yo trabajaba... When I worked... What a wonderful feeling!

I finally finished Spanish school, after a few fantastic weeks involving riding on the back of pick-ups to the beach with my family, attending a school play and prize-giving where everyone seemed to be called "Gonzalez Gonzalez" and zip-lining like a monkey through rainforest. I am now in Chiapas, Mexico, where I am learning more about the different Mayan groups and how difficult it is to have a proper Spanish conversation when outside of Spanish school. However I have been putting my Spanish to good use talking to an older guy playing guitar in a bar and asking where is good to visit.

The next day I found myself travelling for 25 minutes in a collectivo that smelt of goat and was filled with people wearing furry clothes, and way more children than you would have thought was possible, to a town called San Juan Chamula. In this town there is a catholic church, where the Mayan way of worship is used in front of the catholic saints. This means that many groups of brightly coloured candles (signifying different prayers) are lit on the floor whilst the locals sit on pine needles and leaves that they have spread around. During this ceremony cola is drunk (fizzy drinks purify the spirit) and a chicken is sacrificed. The air is humid with candle wax and the smell of pine needles, the walls lined with glass-encased figures of saints and there are no pews. This is not so much a church that has services as a church building that has been converted into a Mayan site of worship. On the way back we managed to find a collectivo that did not smell of any unexpected animal smell but instead had the radio playing song after song that seemed to involve people "writing letters to you in blood" and "being on the point of ending my beautiful pain", all in the name of love of course - apparently a musical genre unique to Mexico. Thankfully.

Today much of the day was spent trying to track down some information and history on the Zapatistas, who managed to take over San Cristobal de Las Casas in 1994 to protest Mayan rights and were never fully eliminated despite the best efforts of the military. Despite the prevalence of Zapatista artworks and symbols for sale, and the presence of a Zapatista magazine, there is surprisingly little information to be found on this movement in the city where they had the most power. Asking around people will inform you of towns that don't appear on any maps, or offices that are never open, yet the stories of military action against Zapatista insubordination prevail. For the record, cited offences include the heinous crime of building a free school for the children of a village.

1 comment:

John said...

Sounds like fun. I thought you were heading South!