All entries for Thursday 22 September 2005

September 22, 2005

Chomula

Follow-up to Na Bolom from The Midnight Heart

Na Bolom was set up by Gertrude Trudy Duby Blom and her husband Franz Blom. The centre was devoted to the indigenous peoples and the centre was able to put us in touch with an ethically responsible guide to take us to the Mayan towns in the mountains. Our guide Maria was Mayan and knew most of the inhabitants of the towns that we visited.

It was a strange experience. We arrived in the midst of the fiesta fror San Lorenzo. The town unfolded along a long street leading up to the church from which loud bangs coudl be heard and puffs of smoke appeared. Stalls of every kind were alongside the road: woven blankets, corn dough cakes, salted fish, fruit, meats… A square opened out in front of the church filled with more stalls and coploured umbrellas.

Our guide explained the dress of the inhabitants. The men in black woollen robes were the rich men of the town while those in white were farmers. In front of the church was another enclosed square in which a group of men made a procession carrying flags of different colours. Their path lapping the square was strewn with pine and a drum beat out the time.

The church was unlike any other that I have encountered. Most churches in Mexico are the lavish Roman Catholic type, but this was a Mayan–Roman Catholic type. The inside of the church was filled with smoke and the smell of pine resin burning as incense. Inside groups of musicians were clumped near the door with strange instruments – one was a cross between a double bass and a harp; another was a kind of small guitar. Every now and again, the musicians would pick up their instruments and make an impromptu lap around the square outside.

The floor of the church was strewn with pine and a thousand candles were burning. Small groups gathered around painted wooden figures of the saints labelled in glass cabinets. At the door of the church, dancers began to stamp. A tiny elderly woman pressed up against me almost hugging me where I stood on the sidelines and looked up smiling. We made small talk in Spanish and eventually she went on her way.

Outside, the young men were lighting rockets with their cigarettes until they shot out of their hands into the air. The bells started to ring and leaf gold rained down on the crowd outside.

San Juan de Chomula


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“Zona de plagas donde la dormida come / lentamente / su corazón de medianoche” – Alejandra Pizarnik


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