The largest indigenous group in the region of the highlands of Chiapas is the Chamulans. San Juan Chamula is a village located 11 miles from the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, and owes its fame to its people, traditions and above all the magical atmosphere of the temple (the San Juan Bautista Church), a unique ceremonial center for more than 70 thousand inhabitants.
The Church is located in the main square, and admission is $10 pesos which must be paid at the town hall a few steps from the church.
The use of cameras is totally prohibited in the town, along with video cameras and cell phones.
Those who do not respect this rule run the risk of being beaten, or their electronics destroyed, and possibly being taken to the town jail. The matter of pictures for the Chamulans is of the utmost seriousness because they hold the belief that the camera will steal your soul.
Upon entering the Church, an impression so strong is experienced, that some people even perceive a malaise that compels them to leave. The air is heavy with incense and myrrh. There are no benches or electricity, only hundreds of differently colored candles, depending on the request being made.
Dozens of Chamulans are seen praying aloud, sitting on the floor carpeted with pine needles. These are groups of locals being presided over by an "ilol", a shaman or medicine man, and the people have brought bottled sodas as offerings, cups of "Poch" an alcohol made with sugar cane used as holy water, and a chicken to be sacrificed by the medicine man.
The "ilol" diagnoses patients through questioning and then proceeds to spiritually cleanse the patient by passing an egg all over his body. According to their belief, the egg is a living, blessed organism and thus able to remove the evil. These spiritual treatments are reserved only for the indigenous population.
(Photographs: provided by the State of Chiapas Secretary of Tourism for the promotion of the entity).