Saturday, April 26, 2014

April in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, MX

At the graveyard on the way to Tenejapa.
These are Mayan crosses which predate Christianity
In the caves of Arcotete
This has been a very interesting and fulfilling month for the both of us. My thoughts first and Ricardo's later. Following our 3 weeks of teaching in Comitan, this month was more inward for me. I dedicated the month to two important intentions that I had made early in the year. One, to dedicate time to yoga and accomplish some postures that required dedication and a bit more strength than I had earlier this year and secondly, to spend some time each day in a focused area of creativity.

A show "Pakal" - the last great Mayan king
This beautiful land of Chiapas has it all for of color in textiles everywhere, natural landscape, mountains and scenery as well as rivers (some of which I posted from the southern area last month), many healthy restaurants and incredible markets of good, local and organic foods, several great yoga studios with many amazing teachers (from all over the world), young people (more than we see in SMA)not just from the USA and Canada - living, working and traveling here in Chiapas, very friendly locals, a chance to make friends speaking Spanish as a common language and a general feeling of alternative lifestyle but with most of the comforts of any home that we have ever lived in. Additionally there are 3 andadors (streets with no cars) that make walking everywhere easy and a large zocolo or common space in front and behind the main church. This has been a time for festivity as we were here for Samana Santa as well as this week - the Feria de Primavera (the Festival of Spring). I think that perhaps the only negative here, though not during April, is the cold and rainy weather which occurs for several months each year. It is something that the locals just accept.
At the Orcquideria in San Cris
The Church of our lady of Guadalupe
in San Cristobal de las Casas

These are political statements and
all are blown up as "Judases" on the night
before Easter.
Bromeliads growing at Huitepec

Several beautiful queens of
The Primera (spring) festival
Stalactites at Parque Arcotete

Entering the caves at Arcotete
We spent a wonderful day in Tenejapa with Alex of Cielo y Tierra Tours. He took 5 of us in his van (including new friends) Enroute we stopped at one of the larger cemeteries in the Chamula area. It is situated on a large hill and flanked by a row of very tall Mayan crosses. Tenejapa is a Tzeltal Maya town known for its master textile weavers and Thursday market. It also has a beautiful church and central plaza. It is known for its peaceful and tolerant atmosphere. It is one of only a few highland indigenous communities where both Catholics and Protestants live and worship openly and where converts are not routinely expelled. Taking photographs inside the church or of officials or processions is strictly forbidden. We did not take any photos of the church, market or of the people. This town rarely sees gringos so we were stared at a lot while walking through the town. We spent 2 hours walking through the market and then had homemade tamales for lunch at the home of a friend of Alex's and then spent an hour looking at textiles at the Cooperative. 
The graves in Chamula - with doors
to open during Dia de las Muertos
when the dead come back to visit. Mexico
has such a different approach to death
Rabanos (radishes) at the market in
The hat of the officals of Tenejapa
with background of the typical textiles of this town
Many of the women of Tenejapa have
this type of braid
Street art in centro

Impossible to photograph the people but
this shows their native clothing - a feast
for the eyes at every corner

So, back to my intentions. In San Cris I went to at least one yoga class everyday and sometimes two. I finally can do Chataranga correctly without plopping down on my belly at least one or two times a class and working up to more and as you can see from my picture....also Urdhva Danurasana. I hope to keep this up in SMA and develop a practice of my own as we travel.
Urdhva Danurasana

My second intention of creativity daily was jump started when I heard about "Sketchbook Skool" an online 6 week course, with a different instructor each week with videos of lessons, motivation and homework. Many of us posted pictures on their website of our work as well as Facebook and it has been a wonderful way to learn and develop a practice. In addition we are taking another 6 session free class on drawing technique that also has homework and a bonus gift if we do it all. You know me...I am great at following direction so am doing all my homework which means I am doing something creative everyday. Just walking around this town and some of the surrounding towns is creative in itself as the color and design of nature and craftspeople gives many gifts to the eyes. Last week I purchased some shawls in the indigenous town of Zinacantan which I will cut apart and make into something - not sure what as yet.

First day of "skool"
Casa de Te

The roof garden of Teresa's house
And as our usual custom....we have made some new friends during this trip and with technology, will surely manage to stay connected and see each other in some place in this great big wonderful world.
Linda, Victor, Mona, Vernon - from Ajijic, MX
Erin and Phillip (we knew from SMA)
Miguel, Bridgette (from Normandy, FR)
and Patricia and Oscar from Merida, MX
Kristen, our guide Alex and Linda
Tamales in Tenejapa
Friends from SMA in San Cris -
Yogesh, Katia and Sally

And now some thoughts from Ricardo:

Traveling through this part of our world has not only brought back memories of my childhood, but has added something new to my spirit and maybe the way I see the world today. I have said for a long time that things are never what they appear to be, that always there is another side or dimension and here in Chiapas one can't help but see that maybe something else is going on that I cannot explain.

When I was younger visiting my grandparents in Guatemala which borders Chiapas, and has the same Mayan spirit, I saw things differently than I see them today. What a difference age makes. I now see with older eyes versus those of a youth and a spoiled one indeed, I was. Here you see that belief can be very different than what you were taught to believe. Here the people are beings of kind spirit with respect for all living things which is an attitude that comes deeply to indigenous communities like these where nature and people are one and therefore all are better served.

I wish that I was a poet so I could better explain my feelings about what I sense about indigenous communities like theses in Chiapas and Central America. What has hit me the deepest is the strong sense of community in the villages - everybody has each other's back and nobody seems to goes hungry. What is most intriguing here is not just the extremely close family and community ties but their relationship with death. Nobody dies as long as they are remembered and here stories and connections go back generations where for me I have no further stories beyond my grandparents.

So, once again, thanks to everyone for traveling with us and we look forward to seeing many of our US friends and family in June/July of this year.