We caught taxis to our hotel which didn’t take too long as the streets were quiet. There is a chill in the air here as we’re back up to 2200m altitude.
Unsurprisingly, our rooms were not ready and so we walked across the road for breakfast.
After breakfast we were taken for our orientation walk. San Cristobal is in Chiapas state, the most southerly of Mexico’s states. Our hotel, Casa Margherita is very close to the main square and our walk took us to the Zocalo and we were shown the highlights of the town. It seems that there are many different settlers here and it is apparently quite a political town. There are plenty of coffee shops and the market specialises in silver and amber. The are also lots of street sellers with various embroidered items for sale.
Sadly many of the churches and other buildings are not accessible as they were damaged during an earthquake last September.
We walked back to the hotel and even though it was only 10.30, the were some rooms ready. Sadly it took until 12.15 for ours to be ready by which time we were grateful for a hot shower!
We walked back to the main square to find some food and had a beer and club sandwich in a roof top bar overlooking the square.
We met most of the group for a trip to a local village called Chamula. Valleria led us through some of the back streets of San Cristobal. The were local markets and it was dusty and hot!
After about 15 minutes we arrived at a local taxi rank where Valleria arranged for a minibus to take us up to Chamula. The traffic in town was very busy and it took us about half an hour to get there. This village was higher still than San Cristobal and the main attraction was the church. We arrived in the main square having been warned by our leader that the local people don’t really like having photos taken.
There was a bustling market going on when we arrived.
Valleria showed us the town hall, as the village has a local governor.
Next we went into the church in front of the square.
We weren’t allowed to take photos on the church which was a real shame as I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. We arranged a local guide, dressed in the traditional sheep’s clothing. (The villagers consider sheep to be sacred and don’t eat them)
The church was originally Catholic, but in 1871 there was a fight between the local people and the church because the Catholic church did not want animal sacrifices in the church. The people there worship as Christians, but with a Mayan influence. So, for example, Jesus is represented by the sun.
In the church all the furniture was removed in 1871 and the church is not recognised as part of the Catholic church. Down each side of the church were saints, 46 in total, with John the Baptist as the main saint – it is the church of John the Baptist! The saints are looked after by a ‘butler’ for a period of one year and it’s considered to be a great honour. In front of the saints and around the church were tens of flower arrangements, such as you’d see in a flower festival. These are maintained all of the time by the butlers!
Lighting the church were thousands of candles in glass jars which have been lit in thanks for something.
The floor was conferred in pine needles, which comes from the Mayan culture. Each family has a healer who advises the family if someone is sick. For less serious conditions, the sick light candles of different colours on the floor, as advised by the healer. For more serious illnesses a chicken (or rooster for men) may be sacrificed as they believe that the illness is transferred to the animal.
After leaving the church we headed back to San Cristobal.
The plan for the evening was to have a coffee of drinks at a local wine bar. We all meet at 6 and walked the short distance down the street. We sampled some Mexican wine which was really rather good.
By the time we left the bar the street was buzzing with entertainers and lots of tourist and locals. However, for us it was time for bed.