24 Mar The enchanting village of San Cristobal
When we first saw the flyer for the Destination Arts workshop in Chiapas, I had a vision of a quaint little town perched high in the mountains, similar in my mind to Park City, Utah in size. Our flight from Mexico City landed in Tuxla Gutierrez, about one hour in the air after soaring above spiny backbones of dusty colored mountains most of the way. It looked like we were going to land on a grassy field until moments before we touched down. We were met at the airport by a cheerful Mexican driver and momentarily were heading up a very well made and STEEP road that went on for the better part of an hour. (On our way back to the airport, we saw several road bikers heading up this hill and we shook our heads in disbelief! This climb could give the Swiss Alps a run for their money!!)
We saw a few crops, mainly corn being grown on the sparse hillsides as we continued to ascend; our destination was around 7,500 feet above sea level. As we crested the final hill and began to descend, we glimpsed San Cristobal at last and what a shock – it was enormous! I obviously hadn’t done much research, as I then discovered it’s actually a city of 150,000 residents! Thankfully, our gracious hosts at Na Bolom were actually in the oldest part of the city, which felt in many ways, like my original vision of the place: narrow streets, narrow sidewalks, and very old and very colorful buildings! There were grand cathedrals each with a big square in front for markets or gatherings, an incredible Indian marketplace with hand-crafted items and chachkies, a huge indoor food market where folks could buy everything from meat and seafood to beautiful locally grown produce and flowers.
We saw people of every possible description here and kept wondering where they all came from. There were the obvious residents of the community who were walking briskly and with purpose from one place to another. There were many many local Indians, the women with long dark braids, festive attire, and a big sash draped off their shoulders or heads carrying any number of items from children to food or products to sell. Many of them would be hoisting a large bale of shawls or handmade jewelry and approach you on the street looking for instant sales.
The biggest mystery was the ever-shifting parade of young 20 and 30 somethings dressed in completely eclectic garb, some with dreads, some carrying musical instruments, often greeting each other as long lost friends. We began to get the picture that this community attracts young folks from around the world that may be staying in the numerous hostels, and doing what? perhaps what that age group has been doing since our post college days – exploring the world? grand adventures? Anyway, it was fun to speculate as we heard many different languages being spoken there.
Richard and I had a blast painting and this view of San Cristobal was at the top of the Cristobal Colon Steps, looking back to the center of town.