San Cristobal de Las Casas is a colonial town that is quite small and so perfect for walking. It also has a very pleasant micro-climat which means you don´t have to sweat anymore! Woohoo! Needless to say, we loved it straight away because we could finally breath some fresh air and walk around the town without constantly trying to find the shade.
Other than the perfect temperature, San Cristobal is simply a beautiful place that has a very bohemian vibe to it. You can feel the European influence not only in the architecture but also in the abundance of foreign restaurants or lounge bars. They even have a jazz club! Not quite Mexico like shall we say.
Most of San Cristobal´s shops are travel agents, restaurants, Internet cafes or amber stores. And that´s when we are stepping into the "What has Poland got to do with it?" question. The answer is of course amber. You can find it very early in the morning strolling down the beaches of the Baltic Sea but if you are across the ocean, you can find it in Chiapas, Mexico! And I thought us Poles had an exclusivity for amber. Oh well, I guess
I just have to accept that is not the case ;o)
So, what did we actually do in San Cristobal? Well, we strolled along its colourful streets, ate, strolled some more and then ate again, and again, and again. It seemed like there was a lot of eating going on but I suppose when you are on holiday, a meal is one of the main events of the day, isn´t it? Unfortunately, we were not too adventurous with the food. Poie kept on ordering pasta and I was stuffing myself with guacamole. I´m surprised I haven´t gone green yet. At one point, we realised we were craving for rice and managed to find a Japanese restaurant with quite a decent dish of chicken teriyaki. The chef was sweet when he said "I hope you enjoyed it because we are not experts." We did by the way.
One thing about Mexico is they get quite excited to hear they can welcome a traveller from Poland. A few people mentioned John Paul II to me - I really like how they call him "el Papa", it´s got a nice sound to it but then again, it might just be me...
Talking about religion though, we visited this village called Chamula that is inhabited by indigenous people who are of Maya descent. There are a lot of different Maya tribes living around San Cristobal but Chamula is quite famous for its "Catholic" church of Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe where you can see the locals performing their religious rituals that have nothing to do with Christianity. Really, this religion is a fusion of Christianity and Maya rituals, excluding human sacrifice though. Shame, that would have been a material for a photo, wouldn´t it just? Only joking...
Anyway, we were told to go inside the church as apparently, it was quite an experience. And so we turned our cameras off, bought the tickets and inside we went. It was as if we entered a different world in a different century even! The whole church was full of some incense and the floors were covered in pine needles making it a bit tricky to walk as they are very slippery on marble floors but giving an amazing scent when combined with the incense. There is not much light in there apart from hundreds of candles that are being constantly lit up
by local women who by the way cannot take part in rituals as they are only reserved for men. Along the walls on both sides are statues of saints. I must admit, they were rather scary looking: ghostly white with very sad faces. Most of those saints were wearing robes and had mirrors hanging from their necks. Now, that gave me a bit of a headache because I´ve never seen any saints with mirrors and was wondering what the meaning was. Unfortunately, nobody knew the answer to that and since I couldn´t speak a single Maya word, I just had to keep on asking anyone who seemed like a bit of a learned person. So, I actually found the answer after I arrived in another city. Apparently, if you have a saint, you can get one miracle. But if you give him/her a mirror, you can get two miracles! Hmm, why didn´t I think of that?? ;o)
So, apart from the mirrors, you could see different offerings that the villagers brought to these saints. There were lots of flowers, food, candles, coca cola bottles (???) etc. And the people seemed as if they were in their own worlds and
others as if they were at a market. Some of them were muttering something under their breaths and others were chatting away with their neighbours or families. I´m telling you, it was no ordinary church and I´m sure it looks like that all the time as every day is a different saint´s day, so you can only imagine...
I also forgot to mention the home made fireworks! They kept on exploding just outside of the church to the point you could actually go deaf. That´s obviously a part of the celebrations.
Quite some church, hey? I´ve found this blog if anyone´s interested to know more from a guy who actually did a lot of research on it. It´s a fascinating read but maybe only because I´ve been there...
Oh, we also went to see this big canyon called Sumidero. It was...big. I wasn´t too impressed because I´d seen more amazing things (i.e. Halong Bay in Vietnam or almost anywhere in South Island in New Zealand) but I also don´t want to sound too jaded and cynical, so I´ll just say that I enjoyed seeing a live crocodile and that the canyon was pretty nice. I
hope that´s OK ;o)
Next stop will be another colonial place called Merida, so back in Yucatan (and in the heat). Apparently, they have flamingo sanctuaries nearby, so I decided I had to go there and find out why flamingos are pink! Till the next one then!
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