San Cristobal

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September 21st 2007
Published: October 6th 2007
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Today was the best day of my adventure so far. We had a guided tour of the indigenous culture of the Chiapas region. Our guide, Cesar, was wonderful. His grandfather was part of one of the villages we visited today and he spent most of his childhood in the village but did his high school education at a Western school. He has worked for large international corporations but said he gave it up because he couldn't live the Western way of life where family life is sacrificed in order to work. The first village had a special religous day but even on normal days they still dress in traditional clothes. Their religions is Catholic Tradicionales, a mixture of Mayan and Catholic. They use saints but not in the same way as Catholics and they sacrifice chickens. As Cesar pointed out, in the main commercial area of the village, there are "Coke" ads everywhere -- on the bottles, table and chairs, umbrellas, fridges. But Coke does not supply rubbish bins to recycle the empty plastic Coke bottles. Most of the kids beg and it's frowned upon to give them money because it encourages them to miss school in order to beg instead. But if Coke offered 20c out of every recycled bottle, it would encourage the kids to collect bottles and help clean up the area instead of begging from tourists. Cesar also told us about the Zapatistas who have been fighting with the Mexican government for equality for the Indigineous people. I'd read about the Zapatistas but it was interesting hearing a local Indigeneous person's point of view.

Cesar pointed out that even 500 years after the Inquisition, Christians are still trying to change the Mayan ways and beliefs. Apparently Jehovas Witnesses have spent $3m to translate the bible into Mayan dialect. If they were serious about wanting to help the Mayan people, why not spend that money on clinics in the village?

Nobody else in the group will eat from the street stalls. Last night I had a Mexican hamburger with the locals at a street stall. The way I see it, if the locals eat there, then it can't be too bad. Today I had BBQ chicken from a street stall and it was delicious. Other members from my group have had upset stomachs but I'm yet to be struck down. I'm going to continue eating the street stall food until I do.

Cesar said that if people marry outside the village, the wife must follow the husband. I asked if an Indian man wanted to marry a Western woman, would she be expected to live in the village. He said she would but it would be unusual because life is basic; they still cook with wood and coals, practice shamanism, teach kids weaving skills instead of sending them to school, etc. He asked if I could cope with living such a lifestyle. I told him that if you love someone you'll do whatever it takes to be with them. Part of me would like to see if I could live like that, if only for a year. I'd like to try it.


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