San Cristobal de Las Casas
After a wild night in Juchitan I took the night bus to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico where I stayed five nights before heading to Guatemala. Arriving at 6 AM, temperatures went from plus 30 Celsius at night to a balmy 5 degrees - I was amazed at how much the temperature and climate could change in just a few hundred kilometres!
Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico, with a high indigenous population of over 75%, it is also the origin of the Zapatista movement, a liberal leftist and mainly indigenous group who took arms against the Mexican government in 1994. The Zapatistas went public the same day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, and protested (perhaps with much validity) that NAFTA would further the gap between the rich and the poor in Chiapas. Most well-recognized by individuals wearing masks or scarves, there are still numerous Zapatista villages in the Chiapas countryside.
San Cristobal is a beautiful colonial city of 80,000 inhabitants. The most popular tourist city in the state, there is a good selection of restaurants, bars and cafes. Chiapas is also famous for its chocolate and coffee and had a nice selection of coffee shops and drinking coffee. In my week in San Cristobal, I visited most of the local and nearby sights including:
- The Mayan Church in San Juan Chamula - 20 minutes outside of the city, families and individuals come here with a healer to perform various rituals - praying for healing, prosperity, fertility, etc.
- Canon del Sumidero - A 1000 metre deep canon, our tour took a launcha through the canon and we watced falcons hunting for their lunch, and a large crocodile sun-bathing on a large flat rock
- Mayan Medicine Museum - which on the outskirts of town, provides interesting information on various Mayan ceremonies as well as their use of medicinal plants. A Mayan pharmacy is also on the premises.
After 4 nights, two of my friends from Hostel Rossco Backpackers and I left for Guatemala just after dark for what turned out to be a 14 hour journey to Lake Atitlan.