Many Tzotzil believe carbonated soda has the power to heal the sick. Mikaela Ruiz, 41, a local resident, recalls how soda helped cure her infant daughter, who was weak from vomiting and diarrhea. The ceremony was performed by her diabetic mother, a traditional healer who has performed the soda ceremonies for more than 40 years.
But, for many in San Cristóbal, the ubiquity of cheap Coca-Cola — and the diabetes that stalks nearly every household — simply compounds their anger toward the soft drink company.
Local health advocates say aggressive marketing campaigns by Coke and Pepsi that started in the 1960s helped embed sugary soft drinks into local religious practices, which blend Catholicism with Maya rituals. For decades, the companies produced billboards in local languages, often using models in traditional Tzotzil garb.