We’ve been in San Cristobal de las Casas for two weeks now. The time has flown by but we’re really enjoying it. The town is just as beautiful and artsy as promised, though with plenty of typical Mexican style to it. We love being surrounded by mountains and the town itself is at an altitude of over 7,000 feet. Here are some of the things we like best so far:
Our Beautiful Airbnb
Our apartment here is one of the nicest we’ve ever stayed in and right on our typical budget of around $40 per night with the monthly rate ($44 to be exact). It is spacious and has fantastic windows, comfortable furniture, and a great kitchen to cook in. The only downside is that the wifi doesn’t reach the bedroom well. Luckily, I have the living room to work in, while Chad is set up at the other end of the house in the dining room. The windows can create a bit of screen glare for him, but we solved that with an umbrella. We have weekly cleaning and the location is great for walking to the centro or the market. It’s a bit longer to the nicer grocery store (a Chedraui) but we found a good route through a great park that takes around 35 minutes walking and then we can take a taxi home with our groceries for under $3. We’ll do that about once a week while we’re here.
Mercado and Indigenous Culture
For groceries closer to home, there is a large mercado that is unlike any we’ve shopped at before in Mexico. Most of the vendors seem to be from the local indigenous community, mostly from two groups: Tzotzil and Tzeltal. The women mostly wear black skirts made of shaggy fabric that looks like feathers and beautiful embroidered tops. All the produce seems to be locally grown and is somewhat limited but there are plenty of mangos, carrots, citrus, zucchini, avocados, and the local spinach called chipilin. Most of the time it is artfully arranged in a little pyramid and you have to buy the whole set rather than a piece or two. But it is all well-priced and tasty. The market also has a lot of random goods and living and dead poultry for sale, including live turkeys. It’s pretty intense. Apologies for not having photos of these things – I always feel weird about taking pictures of people just living their lives.
We’ll get a closer look at indigenous culture in the area when we go to the nearby town of San Juan Chamula next weekend. In the meantime, we’re enjoying what we’re seeing here.
We’ve also visited one of the local museums so far, a jade museum. It had lots of reproductions of jade artifacts with explanations (in Spanish) of their connection to the Maya, Olmecs, Zapotecs, and others. It definitely wet our appetites for returning to the Yucatan to see more ruins toward this end of that state and nearer to Guatemala.
Arthouse Cinema – Kinoki
San Cris has at least one arthouse movie theater, and though it doesn’t show much in English they have English subtitles on some of their recurring films. Our first week in town we went to see a short documentary about women soldiers in the Zapotista movement of the 1990s that was very interesting. It also has a bar and restaurant that we enjoyed the same night.
It was fitting that it was International Women’s Day and as we enjoyed a drink before the movie we had a birds eye view of a women’s march happening on the street below us. We estimated about 1000 women took part. Later, we saw their signs on display in front of the main church in the square. It was all very moving. I’m also getting much better at reading Spanish so I was able to understand most of the signs.
Walks and Hikes
We’ve had great walks here through the narrow colonial streets and enjoyed a wonderful hike on the morning of my birthday at a nature sanctuary on the north end of town called Moxviquil. It was about a 30 minute walk from our apartment but we stopped on the way for a light breakfast. The hike up the mountain and around was just perfect at about an hour and then we checked out their orchid exhibit. The cost was 50 pesos per person for the hike and another 50 for the orchids or both for 90 pesos so that was a deal I couldn’t pass up.
The rest of my birthday here was quite fun. We went out for a late brunch of Mexican egg dishes and craft beer at a charming courtyard restaurant called Raiz and then later out to try the local Chiapan food at a restaurant called Belil Sabores de Chiapas. It was all very interesting and Chad made sure I had a wonderful day.
We’re really enjoying San Cristobal de las Casas so far. Though it is over an hour away from the nearest real airport (Tuxtla Gutierrez), it was easy to get a taxi to bring us here for 1000 pesos from the booth at the airport. The town is charming and so different from other parts of Mexico with the local indigenous influence. We’re looking forward to seeing even more in our remaining two weeks here.