When we were visiting San Cristobal de las Casas we became very interested in the indigenous people who live in the villages close to the city. The little town of Zinacantán is famous all over Mexico for being the place where flowers are grown. As you enter the town you see acres of greenhouses. Flowers are the main industry of this place in more ways than one. The division of labor is very clear–the men grow the flowers and the women work with textiles, mainly stitching flowers onto blouses, belts, and skirts. If you ever buy flowers that are imported from Mexico there is a very good chance they were grown in Zinacantán. In each of the villages the women all dress the same, but differently from the women in the other villages. The women in Chamula, only a few miles away, all wear these big fuzzy woolen skirts (which are rather unflattering, to say the least) and shiny bright colored tops. But, in Zinacantán, all the women are covered in flowers.
When you drive into town there is a sense that you have entered another time. And yet, every day, especially Sundays, there are many visitors to this town. They usually arrive by vans or buses, with guides. Since Fred and I drove there, we were on our own. Our car was greeted at the entrance to the town by two young Mayan women in full flower dress. They charged a few pesos to enter the town. The young ladies were also quite okay with having their pictures taken for a small fee. These are people who are trying to hold on to their ancient ways of life while at the same time adapting to a changing world. I admire them for figuring out how to make a buck.
After you enter town and arrive at the square, you are greeting again by a young woman in full flower dress. This is usually a daughter, who wants to take you to her house to see her mother’s weaving. The young woman who caught my eye was quite refined, not aggressive, and extremely polite. She even suffered through my Spanish. The young women in these villages speak no English, only Spanish and their native dialects. Some of the older people don’t even speak Spanish. The house we went to was very small and rather raw. When we arrived the mother was sitting on the floor of the front room with a back-strap loom. We were treated like honored guests. We were offered pox, a beverage that is local to that area, tortillas, and given the run of the house to shop. And, of course, I shopped. How could I resist?
Now, let’s talk about the billboard. Coca-Cola is a big, big deal in Mexico. If you have ever had a Mexican Coke, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In fact, there is a church in Chamula where Coca-Cola is actually part of the religious ritual. So, the good folks at Coke decided to put billboards up in both of these villages to promote their product and to show the thing about the town that people will remember. Here a lady is wearing the flowered cape and drinking a Coke. For Chamula, it’s a guy wearing the traditional white wool robe with a Coke in hand. It’s all just a part of the crazy mix that is Mexico.
And that, Sylvain Landry, is a piece of art that I saw on the road.