While Mexico is predominantly Roman Catholic, a vigorous evangelical Protestant movement has earned hundreds of thousands of converts across the country, including Presbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostals, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Mormons. Nowhere are evangelical conversions as pronounced—or contentious—as in Chiapas , where over 36 percent of residents identify as non-Catholic Christians (compared to around 12 percent nationwide). There is even a small number of Muslim converts, around 300 in all, concentrated in the outskirts of San Cristóbal .
Religion is a particularly complex and contentious issue in Chiapas’s indigenous communities. Most were converted to Catholicism early in the colonial era, though many pre-Hispanic beliefs and customs remain in wide use, often blended with standard Catholic mores. A number of traditional Maya beliefs are curiously similar to Christian ones, including a cross-like symbol—to the Maya, it represents a sacred ceiba tree connecting Earth to the upper and lower realms—and a chaotic five-day period known as the “lost days” that coincides almost exactly with Carnaval.
In Chamula , a fiercely independent community near San Cristóbal, residents worship various Catholic saints, yet expelled the local priest when he tried to steer them away from certain Maya customs, including the use of shamans and healing ceremonies.
But practicing a syncretistic form of religion has not made indigenous communities or leaders more tolerant of religious diversity; to the contrary, those who convert to Protestantism often are summarily expelled from their home, land, and community. Thousands of desperately poor expulsados (expelled ones) live in slums around San Cristóbal ; in some cases, entire towns have been founded by non-Catholics. Very few indigenous towns have (or would tolerate) both a Catholic and Protestant church—Tenejapa  and Amatenango del Valle  are two of the select few.