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Saturday, 22 January 2011

San Cristobal de las Casas

After spending the night in possibly the dodgiest hotel we could have found, Da was looking and feeling much better, so we set out into the cool and misty morning to find the cleanest looking place we could to get some breakfast. During December, the so called winter months, the heat around the south of Mexico does become a little less oppressive, but even with that, getting up into the mountainous areas like San Cristobal is a welcome break from the hot climate. The mornings tend be misty and really cool in San Cristobal, and as the mist clears away throughout the day the temperature is just perfect for walking around in a tshirt. We decided not to venture too far out of the city centre in the morning until we were certain that Da was definately on the mend.

San Cristóbal de las Casas is a city in the central highlands of the Mexican state of Chiapas. The city is named after Saint Christopher and Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Spanish priest who defended the rights of indigenous Americans and was the first bishop of Chiapas. The city was the capital of the province of Chiapas, and state capital from Mexican independence until 1834, from 1835–58, 1861-64, and 1868–92, when the state government was definitively moved to Tuxtla Gutiérrez. For thousands of years, Maya peoples, ancestral to the present-day Tzotzil and Tzeltal peoples, have continuously lived in settlements in the general area of the modern city of San Cristóbal.

We spent the day wandering through the cities small squares and cobblestone streets, red tile roofs and the traditional markets where the regions indigenous sell everything from locally harvested crops, ceramics,their traditional colourful textiles, rugs, belts, food, cloths… and a lot of little dolls with wooden guns and woollen balaclavas. These dolls wearing balaclavas that the Maya sell are effigies of rebels from the Zapatista National Liberation Army(Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN). Centuries of corruption and inequality came to a head in 1994, when the EZLN initiated an armed uprising and took control of San Cristóbal de las Casas and three other towns in Chiapas. The insurgency was timed to coincide with the singing of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Mexican government responded rapidly, driving the rebellion into the countryside. 150 people were killed in the conflict.

San Cristobal is also home to many churches and temples. The architecture throughout the whole city is strikingly beautiful.

There always seems to be a lot of people buzzing around San Cristobal, especially during the Mexican holiday season. A lot of tourists make their there during the two week Christmas period when they are off work. The markets were buzzing with lots of people, the traders selling their goods, the many entertainers and people busking in the streets.

Luckily by the end of the day Da seemed to have seemed to have totally gotten over whatever it was that had made him sick the day before. After passing the day in the city, we planned to to make our way out to San Juan Chamula the next day .Chamula is located in the Chiapas highlands, and is inhabited by the indigenous Tzotzil Maya people, whose Tzotzil language is one of the Mayan languages. Reluctant to spend another night in the really dodgy hotel, we found another place close to the centre which complete with a locking door and electrical fittings that didn't have any wires hanging out, seemed like total luxury in comparison!

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