Mayan Villages and Colonial buildings

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
Trip End Sep 05, 2007

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Flag of Mexico  ,
Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Our twelve and a half bus journey high into the mountains was pretty uneventful, we both suprisingly slept for most of the way. The route was on a narrow road with sheer drops on one side, the driver hightailed it around the corners so much so that at various times we thought that we would be going over the edge! Soon the road flattened out and we both relaxed!

We are now in San Cristobal De Las Casas, a small city located in the mountains in the state of Chiapas. Maybe, more famously known for the freedom fighting  Zapasista group who reside in the mountains in this area. Luckily for us, our trip here has been great, and from what we have heard the group has been fairly quiet of late, I wont go into the details, all you need to do is google the groups name and plenty of information is sure to follow! But, basically they are fighting for the freedom of Chiapas, which from what we have seen is a very different Mexico that the other places we have been - this is due to the huge population of indigenous people in the mountains. In a way I don´t blame them.

San Cristobal is beautiful, upon arrival we first noticed how much colder it was, being up in the mountains is quite refreshing after the heavily polluted cities of Mexico we have so far experienced. We walked about a kilometre from the bus station to the centre of town - the zocalo - which is a town square, plaza - every city seems to have one! We sat down and had a coffee, Matt watched the bags and I walked around the nearby streets looking for a cheap bargain room! We found one, very basic, but friendly and clean, the family live downstairs and rent out the rooms upstairs. The lady who is the owner practises Mayan Medicine and is a typical "Senora", plaits in her hair, dark wrinkled skin and bossy!!
Yesterday we walked around the city, exploring the cathedral, the Santo Domingo church and walking around the handicrafts market in which, a lot of indiginous women from the surrounding villages come to and sell their beautiful, colourful wares. Think baskets, blankets, weaving - such stunning items.
From there, we left the historic streets of San Cristobal and walked into the area where many of the locals reside. There was a big local market, selling fruits, veggies, pirate CD´s and the like, there were taco stands and juice stands. The local school had just kicked out and so the place was heaving with people, we walked on through the streets and up to the very interesting museum of Mayan medicine.

The Mayan´s are indiginous people, whose history goes back before time BC. Today in some of the villages practices are still as traditional as they were back then. The museum was excellent, and really explained to us the way the Mayan population prefer to use herbal remidies rather than visit the local doctor, it also went into detail on pregnancy and childbirth which was fascinating, so much so that things are still used now so they must work! We even had the pleasure (joke) of watching a video of a local lady giving birth the traditional way - on her knees, with the midwife massaging her tummy, she in the arms of her husband - yuck!

Today we took a tour (the safest way to do it in these parts we were afraid to hear!) and spent the morning visiting two Mayan villages in the mountains outside of San Cristobal. In fairness, our guide was fantastic, and explained the traditions and fiestas of these people, he told us about education, their religions etc etc. It was all very interesting and in one of the villages San Juan Chamula we were able to visit the church. There religion is very closely linked with the Catholic religion that dominates this part of the world, but also mixed with Mayan which made it all the more interesting. The church floor was covered in pine needles, and as we had learned yesterday in the museum they burn different coloured candles for different reasons. They have eggs in bags that they hold and rub over the person they are praying for, they drink the local drink POSH, and softdrinks - all for different reasons. This church has become known as the " Coca Cola Church"! For the reason being that as part of their rituals in church they also need to have with them soft drinks, this is usually coca cola, but can be any soft drink containing sugar. We almost saw a family sacrifice a chicken too, which is still today a practised ritual.
We took the opportunity to walk around the village and the local market (unfortunatley we could not take photos, these people like many others we have encountered around the world believe that the by having their photo taken their soul/spirit  is taken, so postcards will have to do in this case. They all wore the traditional dress of their village which was always colourful and stunning.

We visited the second village of Zintantulan (exc sp?!), there we saw a Mayan cemetary and visited a local weavers house. They made us the most delicious tacos and we tasted the local firewater POSH. There they allowed us to take photos of them, as the guide explained the traditions, languages and culture of this particular village.

This afternoon we are here back in San Cristobal, it is now lashing with rain outside! This afternoon we will visit the stalls that have been set up in the zocalo for a local fiesta, and then tomorrow we shall head south to Guatemala - into Central America proper and the first land border crossing of this part of our trip! Wish us luck as wave Mexico goodbye!


PS. Piccies will come soon! We are staying in such a cheap guesthouse that the power sockets in our room do not work and the battery is dead on the device we use to upload!
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