Sunday, January 29, 2012

16°44′12″N 92°38′18″W

Oct. 8 to Oct. 10, Puerto Escondido to San Cristobal de las Casas: San Cristobal lies in the Central Highlands area in the Mexican state of Chiapas, considered a state of revolutionary reform with a rich array of indigenous people. Clad in traditional colourful clothing, women carry their children in cloth tied around their backs. It is one of the most culturally abundant states in Mexico, and we were lucky enough to spent a few days travelling through it.

We arrived in San Cristobal after a 12-hour bus ride and immediately hopped in a cab to Planet Hostel (the cab ride was free, and when travelling on a budget, 'free' is well-embraced). It was early and we were hungry, so we made our way to a nearby restaurant and indulged in scrambled eggs and beans before wandering through the highly acclaimed San Cristobal Mercado Municipal.

The streets of San Cristobal are cobble-stoned, and coloured walls line every two-foot wide sidewalk. The mercado (market) was magical. All the fruits you could imagine: mangos, melons, bananas, apples, peaches, forest green avacados and potatoes with dirt still stuck in their wedges stacked as high as possible in a small dish waiting for sale. The women stand behind their makeshift tables and yell out appealing prices for the deliciously fresh food you see, and their children stand behind them stacking fruit, playing with sticks and smiling shyly at me whenever I glance at them.

At this point in the trip my Spanish was terrible. Still, a 'buenos dias' to any of these women warranted a pleasant acknowledgement in return.

Plazuela de la Merced and Templo del Cerrito, and Templo
de Santa Lucia, both in San Cristobal.
The market: beans, flowers, fruit, vegetables.
The women, mainly of the Tzozil and Tzezal ethnicity, wear deep purple garments, black alpaca skirts and will turn away if you hold your camera up to take a photo. They believe a part of their soul is captured when they have their picture taken. And children run through the market without shoes on their tiny, dirty feet. A man and his mother walk through the streets with two turkeys at their front bound by their legs; this is how they make a living before heading back to the rural farmland.

We walked through an arena meat market, where butchers slice and chop the red flesh from the recently butchered cow that hangs on a hook behind them. Row upon row of sausage lays stacked on a shelf, and flies buzz around in a choir-like melody. It stinks, slightly.
Looking down separate directions of a street: beautiful sky one way, and dark
ominous storm clouds moving into the city. Rainy season is a treat.
On our second day in San Cristobal we toured the streets, walking up grand stairways to churches that sit atop the highest hills and look out over the city. Yellow, red and green prayer flags hung above the walkway and blew in the wind. We ate lunch in a nice little patio and watched as people strolled by, some tourists, most trying to sell jewelry and hats and other items that you can easily find in the market. A little boy walked with his father, holding his hand, as they tried to convince passerby that they could shine their shoes. They carry small wooden boxes and a shoe polisher.

At one point we were caught in the middle of a torrential afternoon rain storm--common during the rainy season in Mexico--and wound up huddled in a sunglass store for a couple of hours. We watch with others as the streets began to flood, and laughed when a delivery man on a motorbike attempted to drive up the flooded street and immediately turned around. The water was too much for him. Shopkeepers swept water from their entryways and the indigenous women ran holding their skirts high and jumping puddles, smiling. Just like children playing in the rain. We all share a bit of harmless pleasure playing in the rain.

A woman and child walking through the colonial streets.
That night we went for dinner with two friends, one of whom was working as a midwife in town and could speak fluent Spanish. We sat at a coffee shop at 10 p.m. and drank hot chocolate, and a young girl came up to us. Rambling in Spanish, she asked us if we wanted to by the crafts she was placing on the table--painted animals carved out of rocks. She pulled them out of a wicker basket, the kind you imagine would carry easter eggs. Tavniah asked her several questions: "What's your name? How old are you?" She then asked, "Donde esta tu madre y padre?" Where are your mom and dad? She said nothing.

"She should be at home," said Tavniah.

We had been told on several occasions not to hand money to children. It often ends up in the hands of the mother who is waiting around the corner, and who knows where it ends up after that. But as Florenca, five years old, looked up at me flashing her big brown eyes it took all of my might to not hand her a few pesos and make her feel proud. Instead, I bought her a pineapple muffin from inside the cafe. She walked away down the street and took a big bite of her muffin, and all of the other little girls rushed to see what she had received.

San Cristobal street at night. 
A small, colonial town tucked in a remote area of Mexico. San Cristobal is beautiful.


  1. I really love my blog! even if no one else comments.

  2. Haha i really love your blog too!
    So fun to read and watch your adventures...makes me want to pack up and go have more of my own!


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