Friday, September 27, 2013

Chiapas...another Mexican adventure

San Cristobal de las Casas
Arriving to Chiapas by plane from Mexico City was easy. Wow how the climate changed to tropical jungle like humidity but only for half the ride by car (only 1.5 hr) to San Cristóbal de las Casas which is high in the mountains (7,000') so it was cool by the time we arrived. I want to comment on an amazing protest we passed on the way - the teachers in much of the country have been striking for various issues which are complicated. When we passed through a toll both there were several hundred blocking the toll booths keeping the government folks from working, and then asking people to pay a toll which I suppose goes to their efforts. We asked our driver if it was a fine (multa) but he said no and that they were charging less than the government. I thought it was a great way to protest and make a point.
Then we arrived in this interesting and beautiful mountain city. We are renting a small room in a lovely home and within 10 minutes of our arrival we heard from our host about a special event with some Tibetan monks so we all went together to it.
It was an initiation of White Tara, a goddess to bring health to all of us. It was a moving event with several simple rituals. I cannot explain how incredible it felt to arrive in this city knowing nothing and entering this other world so quickly. We have already discovered why so many like this place...lets see what we have to say in a few days. (Written in less than 24 hrs here).
Colorful San Cristobal

Now it is two days later and we talk about coming back for an extended period. To Richard there are feelings of Guatemala and his childhood. This is the land of the Mayans and there are many indigenous still living here and in the surrounding areas. Their clothing and pride in their culture is amazing. Many still speak their own dialects. Our usual activities of yoga are being fulfilled as well as MANY vegetarian restaurants which provide great choices for meals.
Roof garden of Casa del Pan where they grow their own vegetables.

I would not say that the weather is that great right now with rain every day but it could be as a result of the various storms on both coasts of Mexico. Chiapas is a land of many climate zones and as soon as one goes down the mountains, the weather warms up.

Heading into the canyon
Moss growing ... looks like Christmas tree
lots of wildlife.
An all day trip to the Canyon de Sumidero combined a boat trip down the the river into the canyon with a visit to a small local pueblo. The contrast of beauty and disgust was amazing. The natural rock and formations along with the wildlife (monkeys and crocodiles but did not get a good picture of the monkeys) on one side with the ride through a sea of garbage which was caused by the wet season rains that bring the plastic garbage and wood from Tuxtla Gutiérrez into the canyon. We all had to help rock the lancha to help the captain move the boat through it. If every there was an advertisement for it was. When will Mexico get on board with recycling?
The famous view of Chiapas

Up close and personal!

Our boat when right through this!!!
Yesterday we went to two local towns...San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. Again an "other worldly" experience. In San Juan Chamula is the famous church of the Mayas where no photos are allowed. Their are no seats, only hundreds of candles, locals praying, many rituals (such as drinking coca cola to cause burping which lets evil spirits leave the body), curanderos (medicine people) using herbs and incense (and we heard but did not see ... chickens) to pass over bodies to remove disease and spirits.
Outside of church in San Juan Chamula
Graveyard in San Juan Chamula
Once I realized that I could not photograph, I was able to really focus on these amazing people with their strong link to their past. We could not take photos of any of the people in the town ... cameras would be confiscated. In Zinacantan we visited a family home, saw weaving, purchased a few beautiful items and learned of their simple culture.
typical weaving style of Chiapas

mixture of woving and embroidery

intricate wall hanging

home made tortillas filled with calabaza and beans
We also have visited the Textile museum here in San Cristobal with several more museums on our list. I am glad we have an extended time here as there is much to do.
Textile Museum

Hundreds of drawers with Huilpols
At least some rain every day!

In the market

Streets of San Cristobal

So...we are winding down our first week. This weekend we were invited by the family of a young man we know in San Miguel to their home in the town of Comitan de Dominguez about 2 hours away. We will join them for activities and see another colonial town and get to practice our Spanish all weekend. Chiapas has been great for staying in Spanish as there are many less foreigners speaking English than SMA. This comparison reminds me of how much time I spent the first few hours and days comparing things to SMA. We both decided that comparing does not keep one in the present, nor is it fair to either of the things, places or people being compared. This has been my personal lesson for the week and hopefully for life. I realize how much time I spend doing that about myself and my surrondings. I hope to remember that each of us is unique and the many places we visit are too. I will say that after one week in Chiapas....I am sure we will be back.
Thanks for traveling with us and more will come next week as we still have lots to do and see.
Love from the 2wo of us.