San Cristobal de las Casas

Trip Start Jul 06, 2006
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Trip End Aug 01, 2006


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Flag of Mexico  ,
Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Here I am in San Cristobal de las Casas, in the state of Chiapas.

It took me a while to get here. I missed original bus from Huatulco because the time on my ticket was different from the time on the board at the bus station. I stupidly believed the time on the board. I was very upset. It was midnight and no hotels had space. One hotel clerk was kind enough to have his brother drive me to the apartment complex where his family lives, where they had a simple one room aparment I could use. In the morning the clerk brought me a plate of spaghetti, some meat and grape KoolAid. Kindness comes from the most unexpected places.

The bus ride was 9 hours overnight, up through the mountains. The TVs played the classic film Monster-In-Law in spanish. I arrived in San Cristobal dazed and chilly (I wore my fleece for the first time on this trip) and found myself a hotel and crashed for a few hours.

This is a beautiful colonial town with cobblestone streets and brightly painted buildings with red tile roofs. There is an internet place on almost every block. Every other block sells amber jewelry (in joyerias, my favorite word for jewelry store because they really are places of joy, aren't they?). The sidewalks along the narrow streets are about a foot wide. It reminds me of Oaxaca but the buildings and streets are better maintained. There are many more white tourists here than I saw in the state of Oaxaca. There are also more people traveling alone.

There are many more indigenous people here than in Oaxaca. The women wear black furry wraparound skirts and embroidered blouses. Their hair is plaited with colorful ribbons. The men wear black trousers and I have seen a couple wearing white furry vests a la Peter Tork. These folks aren't fans of getting their picture taken so I have shots of them when they happen to be in front of something I'm already taking a picture of. The streets are teeming with touts. The kids have various ingenious methods of asking for money. One way is to stand and and stroke your arm while they hold out their wares. Another is to ask you to write your name, age, country and amount you plan to give in a notebook "for school". That one works pretty well. There are a couple of older men I have seen who grab at you to give them change.

I had heard Chiapas was poorer than Oaxaca. It's interesting to me that this city is in such great shape. Maybe, like other cities in this region, the tourist area is the beautiful part.

Today I visited a few churches, including San Cristobal, which sits at the top of a steep hill. There is a festival happening now for that church and the steps leading to it are decorated with flags. I walked up the steps slowy, with my heart racing. I'm not sure if I'm acclimated to this altitude (2120 meters above sea level) yet. Along the stairs, people sold refreshments to wimps like me who can't handle a few measly stairs. The church itself is full of fresh blue flowers and a steady stream of well-dressed worshipers wander in and out. Tents surround the church, where vendors sell food, music, toys and run games. Behind the church I was astonished to find a regular fair complete with rickey rides, loud music and dozens more tents.

There are many restaurants and bars around, where tourists do their bit to help the economy and waiters do their bit to make single women feel like queens for a day. I have recieved several paper napkin roses in gratitude for my very beauty, I suppose. I sat in a bar last night on the zocalo where a plaintive guitar player sang covers of such morose ballads as Piano Man and Guantanamera. He was really quite good and I stayed for his entire set.

Tonight I plan to find some more music and to make a plan for an outing tomorrow. I'm thinking horseback ride through the hills.
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