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Guerrillas and graffiti...

San Cristobal is quiet, but not silenced

sunny 20 °C

We have friends who travelled in Chiapas during the time of the Zapatista uprising, and subsequent tensions in the 90s, and they all felt the same unease being in this area at that time. Twenty years later, the issues that caused the uprising have not changed, and while things appear calm on the surface through the eyes of a non-Spanish-speaking tourist, it is obvious that political unrest still runs very deep. The city is filled with political messages and street art; rallies and speeches in front of the Governor's Palace, and a palpable anger over the ongoing corruption and social injustice, especially toward the indigenous people. Mexicans may have a lot to fear over personal repurcussions from the government and military, but here, as in Oaxaca, we saw signs of rebellion and outspokenness from a population that has had enough.


This reference to Zapata, and to continuing the fight, is painted on a wall by artist Cesar Corrizo, a professor, cartoonist, and social historian from Tucaman, Argentina. The date would indicate this was painted less than a month ago.

I became fascinated with graffiti and street art last year travelling in Italy with Imogene, who is an anthropology professor at VIU. Since then, it has become a thrill to discover the gems hidden between the bloated tags and profane scribbles. The following are some of my favourites - if they are political, their messages are lost on me, but I appreciate their value to the street.


The ad on the truck below is from the Green Party, and those issues - environmental degradation, educational access, prison reform and circuses without animals - are not so different from the ones faced by many democratic countries .


Politics aside, there is plenty of street art that is either decorative or whimsical.


Art exists in San Cristobal in many forms, and these are some of my favourites:


Twig wall sculpture (would like to try at home)


Indigenous textiles in market


inviting museum walkway


Modern textiles in shop


pastry shop - organic coffee, organic decor, great music, awesome pain au chocolat


more modern textiles, and pretty shop entrance


my favourite - patient husband waiting, with crumbling wall as photogenic background

Our last two days here have been chock-full. We visited an ecological reserve called Moxviquil on the edge of town, and took a 2.2. km. walk up into their forest reserve. Among the many interesting sights were "nurse" cactus and epiphytes, which are non-parasitic plants that attach themselves to trees for support, but derive their food and water from the air and rain. I had never seen anything like them before. The hike took us high above the town, and at times felt just like a walk in the woods back home - so peaceful.


Composting toilets were a picturesque and welcome addition


Many plants were identified in both Spanish and English. This one, stonecrop - promised to cure coldsores. I was tempted to sneak a piece. I've been plagued with coldsores (or sun blisters) for much of our trip.


Since Chiapas has become an incredible coffee-producing area, (and the coffee is fantastic here), we were very interested in visiting the Museo del Cafe. Without getting into the many layers of complexity surrounding coffee growing and production, fair and direct trade, sun and shade grown, and the ongoing poor treatment of the mainly indigenous farmers that produce the majority of the beans - that would require pages of information about which I know very little. Whew! Our friend Dave, whose work with his tourism students with coffee producers in Costa Rica, knows all about this challenging issue, and I look forward to a more informed discussion with him at some point.


This small museum was very informative, with an emphasis on how the early history of miserable working conditions has only slightly improved. While workers are no longer slaves, the financial return to them for their labours remains low.



Plying workers with alcohol to make them compliant is no longer in practice.


This haunting image tells a story of beatings, intimidation, hellish working conditions with little food and water and overcrowded sleeping barracks.

To sum up, San Cristobal wears its hurtful history and ongoing struggles just as prominently as it wears its natural beauty. This is a city that makes you think and feel deeply. Lots to digest with this one - I look forward to reading a great deal once we're home.


One of the exhibits from the fabulous textile museum. These are very traditional examples, but the spinning, dying, and weaving remain of critical importance to the area. From the roots of the indigenous weaving comes a new generation of young weavers - same techniques and more modern patterns

We leave tomorrow and were heading to the ruins of Palenque, but the weather is about to take a turn for the next few days, so we're changing course and driving to Campeche, on the Gulf coast instead. We'll catch up with Palenque and the rest of Chiapas after we swing up the Yucatan and down again.

Posted by millerburr 13:46 Archived in Mexico

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Lovely stuff, thanks again. x

by Dave

It is always such a pleasure to read your blog at the end of the day Ginny and I feel that the few words I hastily write back to you don't do you justice!
I love traveling with you vicariously, this Chiapas area feels very real and charged, presenting a realistic view of an unfair world. The art and textiles are exquisite. Thank you so much for sharing, and safe travels.
Derrill and I are looking forward to the next instalment!

by Laurence

Love reading your posts. Thanks for sharing.

by Annie

ditto to what Lawrence said. Also just wanted to say in case you didn't know L lysine, the amino acid is excellent for getting rid of cold sores/fever blisters and is available in Mexico as L lysina in tablet form. cheers.

by Siki

You're right - the art work is exquisite. I think my favorite is "patient husband waiting".

by Heather

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