Sunday, January 10, 2010

san cristobal de las casas

What a day. So full of colour and smells and flavours. We started off the day with a trip up the steep hill to the Templo de la Guadalupe, a church perched above the city with broad steps and a cross that are lit up at night. In the place of Christ behind the altar was the Virgin of Guadalupe, an image that is everywhere. After the service, we followed a small procession down the road toward the Centro. A group of twenty or so people, some teeny people in the front dressed as angels or dolls, regular folk, a priest holding some sort of religious object, a group of musicians playing very loudly and two men who followed up the rear with fireworks that they lit and launched into the sky every few minutes. We veered off toward the market. The place was packed full of people -- kinds of people that we´ve never seen before -- people who seem to have emerged from an earlier time. The women wear long black braids interwoven with fuschia ribbons, deep blue dresses with a wide band of colourful stripes around the midsection, or full skirts of black sheepskin (not the inside mind, the outside) pulled up underneath the bosom and bound around the waist with colourful bands. All of them bundled up in the most intensely-coloured wraps which pop against their glossy black hair. The men wear the sheepskin as jackets or full-length coats, cut very roughly and detailed with dozens of rows of tiny little white stitches around the neck. Perfect clothing for the weather which is positively freezing. We are wearing all our clothes and pining for a hot bath. We hopped on a Colectivo to Chamula, a Tzotzile village about twenty minutes away. We stepped off the bus into another world. Everyone in sheepskin, which we gather is the traditional dress of the Tzotzile. Their language couldn't be more different from Spanish. We walked through the main square and approached the church we'd heard so much about. We stepped in to a hazy cloud of woodsmoke and the smell of pine. The tile floors were covered with what looked like white pine needles. All the walls were lined with half-size images of the saints in glass cases lit up with strings of lights and before each case was a table covered with candles. There were no pews, no altar, only piles of needles and clusters of people sitting or lying or kneeling on the ground. People in ones or twos kneeled before lines of burning candles stuck directly to the tiles (apparently each candle represents a member of the family). Larger clusters of people sat on the floor repeating what I suppose were prayers over and over while a man walked around offering them a drink of clear liquid that was obviously bringing them closer to god. Some people who had perhaps gotten a little too close sat snoozing against the wall or lying flat out on the needles. When we stepped outside, I asked the ¨doorman¨ what the liquid was made of, he answered that it was a soul cleanser.

The colectivo deposited us back near the San Cristobal market where we had lunch. The central covered portion of the market is filled with food stalls, usually a small space behind a counter with a rough bench on the outside where you park yourself for food. We were beckoned by a woman in Tzotzile costume to her very full stand. She shuffled a dozen people down the bench to fit four of us on. We had a couple of orders of the tastiest chicken mole and one of chicken in a sauce with vegetables and tomatoes and black beans. We used tortillas to clean our faces and fingers and plates. A little shopping after lunch then we walked back to the rancho. Our walk back into town later was amazing. Although we´d eaten, Wil couldn´t resist a woman selling quesadillas filled with carne al pastor, squash flowers, epazote and salsa which she cooked on a grill outside her living room door. We watched her make the tortillas from blue corn in a homemade wooden tortilladora. Walking in the evening, a whole new world is revealed -- when the doors in the walls that line the streets open to show what is inside. We got to see an impromptu church service being held in someone´s courtyard. All we could see from the road was an altar lit up like a christmas tree, the backs of many peoples´ heads and the back of one of the band members playing perfect mariachi music. Now for a little postre and bedtime.
Next we head off to Tuxtla Gutierrez and then the Pacific.


Unknown said...

description. sounds mystical.

Unknown said...

great to offer and share that with the kids enjoy!!!rebeccaxx

Peter C said...

Magic ! Glad you're back on line !