Wednesday 4 February 2015

Mexico: San Cristóbal de las Casas

Day 7

Woke up to a gorgeously crisp day - like those stunning winter days where the skies are bright blue and the sunshine makes everything sparkle…and the air takes your breath away!

Walked around the corner to the main square to have breakfast at one of the cafes.
I chose “Huevos a la Mexicana” - scrambled eggs, Mexican style with ingredients matching their flag - red tomatoes, white onions and green jalapeños.  Plus a coffee.

Just outside of San Cristóbal are the Chiapas highlands, filled with dozens of traditional Tzotzil and Tzeltal villages. These villages are home to people descended from the ancient Maya and they have some unique customers, beliefs and outfits.
I had booked to go on a ‘tour’ of two of these place - San Juan Chamula and San Lorenzo Zinacantán - to understand better this alternative Mexico.
First up was San Juan, home to approx 3,300 people. This village has an autonomous statues within Mexico - no outside police or military are allowed and they have their own police force and punishment approach.
The residents of San Cristóbal consider this village more ‘primative’. The Chamulans are a very independent group of Tzotzil - everywhere you have to be very respectful and not take any pictures of people unless they say it’s okay (and usually if you pay them!).
We were shown around…

…and then a local family showed us their wool making - almost all the clothing here is from wool, very useful in the freezing temperatures.

We visited their main church, Templo de San Juan, striking in white with bright green/blue trimmings. Inside is a very different church experience.

Out of respect you can’t take any pictures inside but it is a darkened room, full of flickering candles scattered in groups of seven across the floor, amongst the fragrant pine needles also creating a carpet, mixing with the clouds of incense. There are no pews but the sides of the church have dressed statues of saints in large wooden boxes, wearing mirrors to keep evil away. Their religion is unique - it’s a mixture of ancient Maya customs, Spanish Catholic traditions and some local additions.

Healers (curanderos, aka medicine men) prescribe the remedies that people should bring here - for example certain coloured candles, feathers or even sacrificing a chicken. We actually saw someone bring a chicken into the church but moved on before seeing the sacrifice.
This village has a large central square with lots of market stalls so we wandered around inspecting the options…

…before choosing some tasty mid-morning snacks! Well it had been a few hours since the last meal!

We then moved onto the second village - San Lorenzo Zinacantán.

This similar-sized village is considered more ‘orderly’ by the locals - they are more integrated into neighbouring San Cristóbal.

Here we visited a family of weavers - this village focuses on cotton and has much brighter traditional outfits.

The ladies also prepared some tortillas for us…

..served with a ground pumpkin seeds - tasty!

Chased by a little homemade tipple!

We headed back to San Cristóbal - grabbing a snack lunch at a bakery before going for a climb!

Lisa and I are fairly fit - Lisa particularly so as a P.E. teacher! - but at this altitude the stair climb up to Iglesia del Cerrillo was punishing!

But we made it!

Chuffed with our achievement (and puffed!) we were amused to find a ‘gym’ at the top. Well, clearly it was a sign…

 ...cue time for an amusing workout!

We then treated ourselves to a little shopping session - there’s some great markets in the city. I bought an amber and amethyst bracelet to add to my travel bracelet collection!

Then I also treated myself to a massage before dinner.

For dinner we went to Cocoliche - a funky restaurant with Asian food on the menu and live music in the middle - a great place to go if you want a break from tortillas and refried beans!

I had the tasty ‘Indonesia’ but everyone loved their dishes, so you probably can’t go wrong with any of them.

Traffic light coloured smoothies

Then it was time to dance off our dinner…and top up our tequila levels once more! 

I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the place but it was a great bar with live music and lots of salsa dancing.

One thing about the locals - they have no issues with asking a woman to dance - it’s refreshing! Even if they then probably regret it when they realise my lack of ability…bless them for trying to teach me - hours of salsa dancing later and I’m still no better!

Central America

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