By now, all of the students are back into their regular Wake Forest routines. It has only been two weeks since the trip but the rigor of a week of class here already makes that seems like awhile ago. However, students are not yet done with Chiapas. As they continue to reflect upon their unique experiences that happened all too fast in one week, they are also in the process of planning and implementing their final projects. More information will be provided about those as the students turn in their proposals in the coming weeks.
Final Day, March 12
On Saturday, the students had the freedom to spend their last day in Chiapas as they pleased. Several groups formed and split apart to visit museums in San Cristobal, go hiking, or just enjoy people watching around the city center.
I ventured with Dr. Simonelli, Dr. Gatewood, and Bethany to find the local Museum of Cultural History. Outside the entrance we encountered an old woman making a traditional Mayan wedding dress on a back loom. We had the special opportunity to speak with her for a few moments about the dress and she even allowed us to take pictures as long as we bought some of her servilletas, or napkins. I also could not resist some of the tiny animalitos that only cost about 10 pesos. Also in the area two young women were selling items they had made, including wool animal figures and handbags. One of them had a young daughter named Lola, who was wearing the traditional wool skirt, and was definitely the cutest baby I had seen the whole trip. She allowed me to take pictures as I promised to print out copies to give back to them in return. Dr. Simonelli explained to me that many foreigners often make those types of promises and do not fulfill them, but I made sure to return later that afternoon despite the pending hailstorm. The old woman and 2 young girls were so excited when I returned with the pictures that they started happily chatting in Mayan and pointing at different elements in them. Of course I could not understand what they were saying but definitely felt their gratitude and returned to the hotel feeling quite content.
Throughout the afternoon, a strong hailstorm fell in San Cristobal. The students who had gone hiking did confront some interesting weather but made it back to the hotel safe in time for the evening events. Before our final group dinner together at TierrAdentro, the group received a lecture by Dr. Bob Benfer entitled “The Sun in New World Colonial Churches”. In the churches of San Cristobal, at certain times of the day light beams can be seen emitting from the windows of the domes. Though this phenomenon has only more recently been realized, many churches throughout the region were built in such a manner that they record when the eclipse occurs. While I certainly cannot accurately relay all of the astronomy behind this phenomenon, I found it quite intriguing that this is only now being discovered and understood in churches that are a few hundred years old.