Colonial Mexico at its best

Trip Start Jul 08, 2007
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Flag of Mexico  ,
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I have really enjoyed my time here in San Cristobal.  Its the nicest Mexican colonial city I have seen so far.  Each street hides a secret and just walking around in the city, feeling its peace, seeing all of its colors, talking with the nice residants easily filled 3 days here. 
The Chiapas region is famous because of the Zapatistas revolt that occurs in 1994.  In a nutshell, the Zapatistas wanted more freedom (speech, religious, etc.) and control (mainly economical and political) for the native indians of Chiapas, who are most of them living in extreme poverty.  Around 3 millions natives live in Chiapas, which is approximately 40% of the population of this area.  As a comparison, usually around 5-15% native lives in other Mexican regions.  The Zapatistas first took the arms and seized San Cristobal a few years ago.  They did not held it for long as some 60 000 Mexicans troops took back the city.  Now, the Zapatistas have droped the weapons and are pursuing the pressure politically and diplomatically.  Marcos, the leader of the Zapatistas, is currently forming a political party and I am not sure how well he will go, but he has the support of the majority of the natives.  By many here, he is seen as a hero!




Around San Cristobal, are 2 nice mayan cities called: San Juan de Chamula and Zinacantan.  Chamula was the most interesting of the two.  A nice little town built in the mountains centered around its church and marketplace.  The residants are mainly descendants from the Mayans and practice a very specific religion.  Their religion celebrations consist of using a series of medicinal plants, animals such as chicken and Coca-Cola... yes, Coca Cola or other soft drinks, to heal the sickness of the people.  The ambiance in the church was crazy and much more fun (anyway for me) than traditional Christian church: houndreds of people (men, women, eldest, kids), thousands of candles set absolutely anywhere by the people, shamans doing the ceremonies, kids, incents, chicken and loads of alcohol (posh).  All of this, in a chaos that gave to this church a pretty special energy and as I said, ambiance.  Everybody drinks alcohol apparently all during the celebrations, even the kids.  They used to be connected with the Catholic church, but after a priest about 30 years ago tried to remove the use of animal and Coca-Cola in the ceremonies, the village decided to completly expelled any specific catholic religions influence from their cult.  Why? Possibly because the richest people of the village are getting their wealth from selling Coca-Cola, which everyone uses for anything, or perhaps the reasons go deeper than this, I do not know.  As another example, they do not celebrate Jesus, but Saint-Jean Baptiste.  They have even made illegal the use of any other religious cults in the village.  This is apparently the main reason why they are against the Zapatistas.

I have met very interesting people in San Cristobal.  Many travelers traveling alone for many months to a few years.  Its seemed that most of them were very interested in the political side of what is happening in the world, more precisely Mesoamerica and South America.  We had very long discussions about the position of women in the latino;s culture.  After seing a documentary as well, it seems like women, such as in many places in the world, are very badly treated by men and the government.  First, women are often "purchased" by the family of the husband, making her more or less an employee/slave for the family to do the tasks they want her to perform.  Many of them are beated by their drunk husband and their self esteem is often near zero.  Most of them don;t have the opportunity to be educated, and have very limited skills mainly revolving around pottery and linen.  The competition is very strong for their products and they often work for less than 0.75$/h.  More and more women however are fighting this injustice and are getting organized around women groups to teach other women of their rights and acquire new skills.  This situation would apparently be worst in Guatemala than in Mexico.

I have also learned, not to my big surprise, that many canadian companies are exploiting lands and people in Central America.  All of this, with the benediction of the World Bank and other world wide organizations as such.  Many countries, like Honduras who are very poor and have big debts, sell their gold for ridiculous price to Canadian companies.  I am supposed to receive that report from a German guy I have met, who is currently investigating that situation.  As soon as I get it, I will post it as a reply to this article.

More or less, we all agreed that the West is infringing on Latinos business too much creating poverty and political instability in the region.  It was nice to see the view point of the different people: Irish, German, Deutch and Belgian and hopes we all have for a more just world.  As a sort of a conclusion, we agreed that consumers have the power to make things change, but we first need to be aware of it and really want to make things change.

At this point, my time is counted as I need to be in Yucatan in a few days.  After 3 days in San Cristobal de las Casas, I am now heading east to Ocosingo.  Talk to you later

Eric
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