SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS: SYMBOL OF CHIAPAS
On January 1, 1994, the streets of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, symbolic city of Chiapas and the ancient capital of the southernmost state of Mexico,were invaded by the EZLN and that revolutionary air is still felt everywhere.
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation showed up to the world that day and if you like a direct contact with them you have to come to San Cristóbal de Las Casas.
Since decades, also for this reason, the city has become a base for travelers from all over the world, who share their cultures with the descendants of the Original Peoples of Chiapas: Maya, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol.
Here, besides Spanish, millennial languages are still spoken.
Life goes slowly in the cobbled streets of San Cristóbal and slowly you have to know it.
In my travels I like to discover cities using a paper map , often taken in hostel.
When I go back to my room, I highlight the streets where I walked to go to others streets and see as much as possible.
I use some landmarks, places that I consider strategic for various reasons.
In San Cristóbal I have identified two of them: the Cathedral and the market..
Catedral and Plaza 31 de marzo
This area has become my base in San Cristóbal.
When I arrived here, I realized I was really in Chiapas.
The cathedral is colonial-style, very different from the classic Catholic churches I’m used to see.
Unfortunately, it is not currently possible to access it because the restoration of the damage caused by the 2016 earthquake continues.
And unfortunately it is not new: started in 1528, it was finished only in 1815 due to various natural disasters.
In 1816 and 1847 it suffered other damages with consequent restorations.
The Cathedral Square is often full of local inhabitants, travelers, stalls and indigenous people of the city and neighboring villages, dressed in their traditional clothes.
Children play, but more often they wander the city trying to sell bracelets or other handicrafts.
And precisely in this context I experienced one of those episodes that teach that traveling opens the mind, give the true values of life, helps to grow and be better..
One hot Chiapanec afternoon, I was sitting having lunch on one of those tables in the shade, watching life slowly pass in front of me.
One of the many children who fill the streets of San Cristóbal approaches me to sell me a bracelet made by him.
I smile and tell him that if he wants I can offer lunch. He doesn’t wait I repeat it, he sits down and orders a sandwich and a coke.
After a while another child arrives and he sees one of his contemporary, at that moment luckier. He looks at him with healthy boyish envy and seems to savor that sandwich and refresh himself with coke.
I also invite him to sit down with us but he refuses because his mother is sitting on a bench nearby and doesn’t want to betray her.
I tell him that if you want, I’m glad that she comes.
The boy runs to her and they go back to the table together. Hunger probably made her put aside all hesitation.
I order steaks for everyone, as big as they may have never eaten in their life.
Se tries, but doesn’t know how to use cutlery.
I immediately avoid getting embarrassed and we eat all four with our hands, with humility, with respect.
The children also speak Spanish, the lady only indigenous language.
We speak, children translate. And where words stop, we understand each other with looks and smiles.
Then everyone goes their own way.
With full stomachs and fuller hearts.
San Cristóbal for me are cobbled streets full of people, the perfume of chiapanec coffee, the cultures that coexist and that also merge in food, the colorful houses like traditional clothes, the hot morning sun and the cold that become pungent at night because here, however, we are at 7.200 ft above sea level.
Iglesia del Cerrito (o San Cristobalito)
On the Cerro San Cristóbal hill, there is the Iglesia del Cerrito.
Reachable by a particular zigzag staircase, it allows you to see the city landscape.
On the other side there is the Cerro de Guadalupe, with the church crowded especially on December 12, the day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Templo de Santo Domingo
Built in the 17th century in the Chiapanec Baroque style, the temple and ex convent of Santo Domingo surprises and impresses with its pink facade.
Near there is the city market, a meeting point for colectivos.
Cars, minivans or more or less equipped camion (as in the photo below), connect San Cristóbal with neighboring cities and towns. They are the perfect transport way for small-medium range travel.
Depending on the destination, they will leave when the vehicle is full or will pick up people on the way.
The price changes depending on the distance but will always be cheap and convenient.
At the market you can find everything at very cheap prices, from food to clothes or crafts to take home.
You could negotiate the price but you always have to think if few pesos saved change your life..
Those few extra pesos can instead help someone to feed their family.