Life in San Juan Chamula revolves around the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista, a white stucco building whose doorway has a simple yet lovely flower motif. The church is named for Saint John the Baptist, who here is revered even above Jesus Christ. There are no pews inside, because there are no traditional masses. Instead, the floor is strewn with fragrant pine needles, on which the Chamulas sit praying silently or chanting while facing colorfully attired statues of saints. Worshippers burn dozens of candles of various colors, chant softly, and may have bones or eggs with them to aid in healing the sick. Each group of worshippers is led by a so-called "traditional doctor" (they don't like being called shamans), whose healing process may involve sacrificing a live chicken and always involves drinking Coca-Cola or other sodas; it is thought that the carbonation will help one to expel bad spirits in the form of a burp, and you'll see rows of soda bottles everywhere.
Before you enter, buy
a $2 ticket at the tourist office on the main square. Taking photographs and videos inside the church is absolutely prohibited. Some tourists trying to circumvent this rule have had their film confiscated or their cameras smashed. Outside the church, cameras are permitted, but the Chamulas resent having their picture taken except from afar. The exception are the children who cluster around the church posing for pictures for money—they expect a $1 tip.