Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Challenging Drive to Simojovel, the Land of Amber

Early Tuesday afternoon we were back on the road, undertaking the difficult three hour mountain drive to Simojovel, the town of amber.  Shortly outside of San Cristobal, we made a stop in San Juan Chomula, which is a municipality whose inhabitants are Tzotzil Mayan.  The town has a unique autonomous status and even has its own police force.  Taking photos in the town is extremely difficult, and strictly prohibited inside the church, but I had the good fortune to be able to snap this photo of the exterior of the church, which was in the process of being painted.
I was allowed to enter the church for a fee of 20 pesos, and was moved to tears by this profoundly spiritual experience.  There are no pews, and the floor is covered with pine boughs, being strewn about by men in white sheepskin vests.  The smell of resin incense is in the air and there were hundreds of candles.  There were many people kneeling and rhythmically chanting to the statues of their saints that lined the walls in glass enclosed cases.  It was unforgettable.

We got back in the car and continued our trip to Simojovel, navigating what we decided was the road with the most curves we have yet to experience (overtaking the road in Guerrero that led to Olinala, and the road in Baja that led to Cuidad Constitution, our previous top two curvy roads).
What made this road particularly challenging was the abundance of deep potholes, which were especially teeth rattling when we inadvertently hit one a little too fast from time to time.
We passed small villages of indigenous people, and saw women outside weaving,
and many people of all ages both gathering and carrying wood.
Some of the men were dressed in sheep skin coats, using the same fur that we saw the women use for skirts in San Cristobal and San Juan Chomula.
This woman was doing her laundry out on the front porch.
We could tell that we were finally getting close to Simojovel when we started seeing small shacks with signs proclaiming "We sell amber here". 
I wanted to sing "Oh happy day" when we finally saw the entrance to the town.  We made it!  Simojovel, Tierra Del Ambar, Land of the Amber.
Tired and stressed from the long winding drive and countless potholes, we parked the car, grabbed a bite to eat and then walked to find a room, deciding on the Hotel San Antonio, located on the zocalo.  It was then that it began to rain.  Hard.  Really hard.  And thunder and lightning.  We decided to wait to go get the car until the rain let up, and instead went to the internet cafe next to the hotel so I could write the kids and let them know we were ok.  I got as far as logging in, and starting to type "Dear", when the power went out.  We waited a few minutes, and then decided to buy a bottle of water and go to our room to wait out the rain.  It's now about 10 PM.  The owner of the little convenience store that sold us the water was very resourceful, running her store by candlelight.
Back at the hotel, we followed the candles placed strategically on the stairwells to find our way to our room, and we soon fell sound asleep, lulled by the sound of the pouring rain.  We stayed that way until morning, when the rain had stopped and we could go get the car and our suitcases!  The view after the rain was beautiful from our hotel window.
Now Wednesday morning, we ventured out to learn about the amber business.  We stopped in the zocalo and drank Pozol, a prehispanic drink made from corn dough, chocolate and water, served chilled in plastic bowls, and found only in Chiapas and Tabasco.  Pozol is know for its energetic and disease fighting properties, and it's delicious!
Next we started to meet the townspeople, and it is here that I will leave the story for tonight.  Since we ended up spending four nights in this very interesting town, I have more to tell, so I will pick up the story tomorrow!  I wish you all sweet dreams and Buenas Noches.

xoxo Linda

1 comment:

  1. not sure i could have survived that road...but it sounds like it was well worth it!! can hardly wait to hear the rest of the story!!