Colectivo hopping from San Cristobal de las Casas

There are many short adventures less than an hour away from San Cristobal de las Casas.

And, although there are tours, I caught a colectivo (cheap van) and got packed in with women in satin guipils and sheepskin skirts; the men wore hip length pullovers made of the same stuff. We all cruised, fur side out, through black sheep country into San Juan Chamula ahead of the rain and were deposited in an empty square. Clearly, it wasn’t market day. So, I stepped across the street into the (no kidding) Wal-Mart sized indoor market. There were a few local shoppers rattling around, idly circling produce and meat vendors and, towards the back and all along the outside, there were stalls full of local tipica (handcrafts.)

I halfheartedly looked at yet more Mexican guipels. What I kept seeing all over was garments made from gauzey cotton often constructed with too many puffs and pleats at the shoulders and bodice and almost never in my colors. Generally, the simple patterns and large scale embroidery does not compare to the Guatemalan creations but I found some gorgeous exceptions.

The Mexican designer we met in Palanque and some of her colleagues had arranged to do a fashion shoot up in Zinacantan. They met with the local families and with their cooperation produced an exhibit. She came in and invited us to the opening near Tierra Dentro. At the party, we would meet her other partners and see the family advisors all dressed in cassock shaped light blue and violet flowered quipils with pastel accents. The men had bullfighter red Jackets lavishly adorned at the shoulders, plackets and cuffs with delicate flowers. Most exciting, our friend had on a back laced bustier tailored in the village’s style.

With kind help, I found a colectivo to Zinacantan in the late morning. The town had only a handful of stores on a short shopping street but, there was one remarkable place with very precious goods. They were asking fair trade prices north of $350. They were beautiful and I would have bought one but blue-violet doesn’t mix with my colors. The collective turned out to be one way so I had a long wait until I could find transportation back.

The Sumidero boat rides you through a deep water canyon and turns back at a hydroelectric dam. Along the way there are some reptiles, lovely cranes and a plastic bag and bottle morass. A clean-up crew manned several boats, near the shore. My fellow travelers were very helpful pointing out the monkeys and tiny crock babies. We had lunch in Chiapa de Corzo – it is on the river and the first colonial city in the region. There is something very inviting about this place. It has a square as large as San Cristobal’s and, yes, it is very commercial. But, sipping a beer on the wide dockside and looking down river back towards the canyon, I was a relaxed and absorbed as if I were along the IJ, the Seine or the East River.

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Return to Chiapas Quartette
Chiapas – romping, stomping and chomping
Mexican Ruins – Chiapas – Yaxchilán and Bonampak
Day trip to Palanque, Agua Azul and Misol-Ha

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Author: diane e. dreyfus

on the road until they put the lid down

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