Tuesday, March 02, 2010

March 2 - San Cristobal de Casas

At the breakfast table of the hotel, I had coffee with a Lancandon woman and her daughter. Although yesterday’s encounter with a man and woman in the courtyard of the hotel found them dressed only in white tunics that didn’t cover their knees, and it was so very cold. Today’s Lancandon wore modern garb, including winter jackets. Most indigenous people in Chiapas wear traditional clothing, and their clothing indicates the region they are from, their language and customs.

When I finished my coffee and chat with the Lancandon woman I went to a market in front of the Temple of Santo Domingo. Most of the women were wearing black skirts of some sort of mysterious cloth that had a hairy appearance. I wanted a photo, but wouldn’t take a photo without both permission and payment. I tried to get the attention of one woman who ignored me. The next woman told me she didn’t want her photograph taken and proceeded to cover her face with a beautiful purple scarf. I told her I respected her wishes.

It was now mid-morning and time for my first meal of the day. I found a beautiful courtyard restaurant. I watched a bright, yellow, wild canary take a bath in the courtyard fountain.

While I was eating a woman wearing a hairy black skirt and her daughter come into the restaurant and tried to sell me some wooden carvings. I don’t want the carvings, but I wanted a photo of her and her skirt. I offer $10 pesos if she would be so kind as to allow me to take her photograph.

Her daughter, who wasn’t waring a hairy black skirt, wanted to be in the photo. Her mother insisted since she was given $10 pesos I must also give her daughter $10 pesos. I didnt’ want a photo of her daughter I was simply giving into her wish to be included. Still, I said nothing and gave the little girl $10 pesos and took the photo.

They then proceeded to apply pressure, for only $20 pesos I could have a beautiful wood carving of a jaguar.

“I’m poor,” I told them. “I’ve given you $20 pesos already, that’s enough.” They understood and gave up their aggressive sales tactics and left me to my brunch. I took my bread to go and disposed of it by handing it to a man and his wife who were begging on the street. He expressed a depressing amount of gratitude.

Museo del Amber de Chiapas

Don’t buy off the street merchants. They tell you you are buying amber, but you are really buying plastic,” the museum guide instructed. Amber is fossilized plant resin around 24 to 30 million years old. The Chiapas amber bed is the third largest in the world, after the Baltic countries and the Dominican Republic.

The work of getting the amber out of the ground is totally manual, sweaty labour in confined spaces using a hammer, chisel, shovel and wheelbarrow. Accidents happen frequently.

Museo de Las Cultura Populares

This museum containted fascinating displays of the costumes and customs of the different regions of Chiapas.

Temple of San Cristobal

It’s a long climb up the stairs and the temple at the top the temple is really a small chapel. Behind the chapel there was a fairly new, in excellent condition obstacle course track. The reason for the climb is to get a good view of San Cristobal.

Museo Café

Chiapas is Mexico’s #1 producer of coffee. 227,254 hectars under cultivation. Oaxaca is #2 with 67,767 hectars. 60% of the farmers are indigenous. Between 1936 and 1940 coffee workers went on strike. Today coffee workers have 36 regional organizations in the state of Chiapas.

I asked the guide why with Mexico growing such delicious coffee did so many Mexican’s drink Nescafe (which may be made from Mexican grown coffee, I don’t know) He didn’t have an answer. I have a point of view. The television commercials. The subliminal message - Good health! Good life! Prosperity! Nescafe.

Ruth, who I rent from, told me she drinks Nescafe because of its convenience. But, as far as I’m concerned an automatic drip is just as convenient.

In the late afternoon I went back to the hotel to take a rest or nap. I wasn’t tired, but I didn’t want to fall asleep like I did the night before.

Palenque Rojo

Palenque Rojo was a performance at the Teatro Daniel Zebadua that began at 8:30 p.m. A combination of dance and theatre it is a Mayan story performed in the Mayan language.

Like all things Mexican it was over the top. Costumes and make-up were elaborate, the music loud, and the performances exaggerated. Was it more Mexicna than Mayan? I don’t know.I managed to stay awake, but yawned a lot, was very cold, but was glad to be part of the audience.

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