A Travellerspoint blog

When taking the road less travelled backfires

semi-overcast 33 °C

Our son Dan commented once that we don't seem to have a plan for life. Not sure if that observation was spawned by my many jobs, or our many moves, but he has a point.

Most of this trip has been "planned" to a certain extent, but somehow, after leaving Campeche, we got lost. Not lost in the fun and exciting ways we have been getting lost all through Mexico, but lost as in "we've lost our focus." With just a month left in Mexico, there is so much to see - so much to do - so little time. Sprung from that reasoning, we chose to drive past Merida, a delightful colonial city filled with museums and art, and head to the coast - to Progreso. We thought we could use it as a base for day trips, escape the steamy city streets and spend a little beach time.

To borrow Bette Davis's famous throw-away line - "What a dump."


Mexican towns can be scruffy and dirty - we are well used to the rubble and the pungent smells and the noise. But with the taco stands and the techno-pop, we have always found friendliness and curiosity among the people, and bright spots in the towns. Progreso - this is a part of Mexico we can't relate to, and can't wait to leave.


These fellows are charter members of the "start drinking at 10 am, and continue until you pee your pants or pass out" group. As sad as this is, even worse (and scarier) are the younger men in Progreso who appear to have little to do but hang out and drink - they look mean and angry. We have not seen such blatant hard-core drinking in other parts of Mexico, and we have never encountered hostility or been checked out in such a forthright manner. It is uncomfortable. We don't feel threatened, but we don't feel welcome, either. I have a theory, but first - a description of where Progreso is on the map. Progreso is at the top left of the Yucatan peninsula. There are not tourists in great numbers, except for long-term snowbirds parked in beach rentals just out of town, and the cruise ships.


The pier leading out to that ship is seven kilometres long. Every two or three days a cruise ship docks here, and several hundred passengers are bussed into Progreso. They have the choice of taking excursions or of staying in town. There is very little to do in Progreso - walk along the malecon, or go for a swim. Beyond that, the beach is lined with vendors selling beach dresses and shell jewellery and restaurants pumping out loud music, 2 x 1 margaritas and cheap food.

Here's where my theory comes in. Progreso is a port town, with a fishing and container industry, so being pretty was never a goal. But in recent years, business from the cruise ships has brought in six-hour tourists, and while there is money to be made from them, these are not tourists that will likely be back. I think it has created some disrespectful attitudes, on the part of some people here, and to be fair, for good reason.

Not a pretty sight we day we arrived - hawkers vying madly for sales, passengers looking for stuff to buy, and a contingent of twenty-somethings just wasted in the late afternoon. Then we came across this sight - bodies lined up to be pressed and prodded in plain view. It is not the best photo, as I snapped it quickly. The words "Special Price" say a lot - it is vendor-speak for extracting money from gringos.


On the plus side, the beach is broad, the sand is white, the water is murky, but it does the trick. The water is quite shallow, so even when the wind kicks up the waves (which it does in gale force most afternoons), it is fun to play.

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Yesterday, we took a collectivo to Merida, which is just about 40 minutes away. The collectivos are entertaining - 15-seater vans - 16 pesos a trip (less than $1.50) - rosary swinging from the rear-view mirror, music playing and driver just givin'er. Took away the fuss and stress of us driving in, parking, etc. Merida is a large city, with Sam's Club and Home Depot and suburbs ringing the edges, but the historic centre is lovely - with a spectacular plaza and cathedral - what I have come to think of as " The Mexican Twins".


Before we began to make the rounds, we grabbed a cold drink and sat in the park to gather our thoughts. There are at least two fabulous museums here - both requiring several hours at least. We decided just to walk the downtown area,and see as much as we could in one day.


We started with the buildings around the square. The Governor's Palace will almost always take up one full block in most cities - it is usually quite ornate, open to the public and well-guarded. I asked for permission for this photo, but could not get a smile. Maybe it's because they were in full regalia in 90+ degree heat. Stephen followed with his own macho stance.

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Inside, the walls are covered with murals by artist Fernando Castro Pacheo, telling the story of the Maya's clashes with the Spanish.


So much of what we've been seeing - the art, the Maya ruins, even modern-day politics comes back to the sentiments on the plaque below.

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The Palacio Municipal was once a private mansion, with quite ornate carvings on the front door and windows. The interior has been refurbished to showcase rooms with 17th and 18th century antiques.


The Museo de Arte Popular de Yucatan was fun - explanations in English as well as Spanish. Display cases were filled with folk art found here, but also the rest of Mexico. However, there was no explanation as to why there were two magnificant jaguars guarding the toilet and bidet.

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Time for lunch - La Chaya Maya had come highly recommended, and as you know, we were keen to have a great meal. When we arrived - my heart sank a little. A table at the front of the restaurant displayed laminated menus and saran-wrapped sample plates - not usually a good sign.


Great success! A delightful room, complete with inner courtyard jam-packed with flowers, shrubs and artifacts, very attentive service, and best of all - really good regional cooking.

We wandered the streets a great deal, enjoying the little parks, churches, and converted mansions along the way.



We left wanting more, which is about the best approach for anything in life, I suppose. This rather inhospitable sign scrawled on a wall gave me pause.


Are we the double-edged sword - us tourists? Or was that writer just having a bad day, and tourists were as good a target as any? A conversation that we frequently have - how do we travel without doing harm? How do we give at least as much as we get?

Back to our "plan". We leave tomorrow for Rio Lagartos - a breeding ground for flamingos, and a prime area to view dozens of other birds. From there, we're off to Tulum for a week - swimming, snorkelling, cenotes and ruins. It seems we've found our focus again.

Posted by millerburr 16:11 Archived in Mexico Comments (5)

The view from the other seat.

sunny 25 °C

Stephen here, blogging my thoughts on our Mexican adventure.

I started the journey reading Ted Simon’s Jupiter’s Travels, who in the early 1970s travelled the world for 4 years riding a Triumph motorcycle. The book was full of his travel experiences; however to me its most interesting aspects were his interior dialogues. He chronicled his travel frustrations, sorted out his past life and tried to make sense of why he was doing this ride.

For me, this book clearly set the tone for the early part of the journey. Why was I doing this? What did I hope to find out about Mexico and myself?

I love the road trip, especially the occasional one taken without a map. As you have read, we went on some mapless adventures. It was a challenge to work through them all, but after the fact I enjoyed them.

Mexico is an under-appreciated and misunderstood country. We have met kindness and respect throughout. Mexicans work very hard, often undervaluing their work, consequently themselves. I watched three young men wash my car inside and out for over an hour for the equivalent of six dollars.

I am struck by the entrepreneurial spirit of the Mexicans. They sell anything and everything anywhere. Children sell fruit at topes and men sell green garbage bags at street corners. I saw a woman with a key cutting machine at a deserted street corner in Sayulita. Men set up car washers operations in mall parking lots or side streets by waving their wet towels to attract business.

There is also great hardship throughout this country. I often experienced heartache watching the young Mexicans working so hard or pushing their young children to sell or beg (if you don’t buy, then “give me a peso”). The children can grow old far too young.

Many of the homes in the mountain communities were difficult to see - barely shacks. Not sure how much judgement I should allow myself. I found it difficult to visit the indigenous communities outside of San Cristobal. Yes, they are keeping traditions alive but at what cost to the individuals and the communities. I struggle with how to understand it all. By visiting, I contribute meagre monies to the community, but am I also encouraging the continuation of the often difficult conditions they live in?
giant cactus

giant cactus

There is such great beauty in this country. I have enjoyed the twisty mountain roads, the beautiful beaches and staring at the night sky. Many of its cities have been beautifully restored and gained UNESCO heritage designations. They are a joy to wander about in.

What I will remember forever is the kindness. For example, the people at the Oxxo convenience store ( Mexican 7 / 11) in Toluca who got into a heated discussion about the directions we needed to take, all the time ignoring the growing line at the counter. The bookseller who approached us in Campeche and sang a beautiful song to us. The singer in the Patzcuaro restaurant whose emotional delivery moved Ginny to tears.

In the early days, I felt disconnected from friends and family. Friends have gotten sick, elderly parents have had medical emergencies and our eldest son Alex announced his engagement to the lovely Alanna. Life continues on without us, and we were not there to support or celebrate. It is a strange feeling watching lives from a distance.

Now as we enter into the final weeks of the trip, we have developed a nice road rhythm. We can efficiently load or unload the car, pack our bags quickly and find the closest Scotiabank for cash advances. Mexico is a cash society. Surcharges for credit card use are common; and if you want an receipt, they want to know why - is it for tax purposes or strictly for your records? The answer has an impact on the final bill.

Sometimes, it has been a tedious, but always an adventure. Not every day is magical but when it is, it really is.

We are looking forward to returning but not in a hurry.

When we get home, we get home.

Posted by millerburr 19:47 Archived in Mexico Comments (7)

Campeche: pirates, pastels and bad pizza

sunny 30 °C


No idea who Don Gustavo was, but he was a whole lot friendlier than the men we encountered in our very first Mexican roadblock.

We think we may be suffering from travel fatigue - at least that is our excuse for our addled behaviour since we've left San Cristobal. With eight hours ETA from San Cris to Campeche, we should have counted on 10 hours and started earlier than 9:15. When it took us 2 hours to drive 65 km. (twisty mountain road in appalling condition), and we had another 500 km. to go, we knew we were in for a stressful day. When we got to Ocosingo, deep in the heart of Zapatista territory, and about halfway to Palenque, we came to a complete stop. We crept forward and stopped, crept forward and stopped.


After about 45 minutes, we realized what the hold-up (literally) was - a very persuasive 5-foot board embedded with nails was strung across the road, preventing drivers from passing until they had paid a "donation" toward the liberation of two gentlemen languishing in a Mexican prison. Their suggested donation was $20, but we managed to get away with about half that. I have a brochure that one of our Spanish-speaking friends can translate for me once we're home again. Anyway, no harm done and nothing personal - just hugely aggravating to be held hostage to a likely unfixable cause.

As a result of our late start and roadblock, we arrived in Campeche around 8:00 pm - having driven in the dark (a big no-no here) for over an hour. In fact, we were in no danger - we were on a pin-straight toll road in good repair, with good signage and lighting, but we were both so tired and crabby that we made a pact NEVER to do this to ourselves again. You can hold us to that.

We drove in to town without getting lost, drove past the floodlit walls of the historic centre, and pulled up in front of our hotel. We were welcomed by two delightful young women who brought us glasses of lemonade while we checked in. This is a small 10-room property - each massive room has 20-foot ceilings and faces onto a stone courtyard, and pool. Our day melted away.


I had very little idea of what Campeche was like - other than it has a history of piracy, that it is very colourfully painted, and that it is on the Gulf of Mexico - all true. It is not as solidly on the tourist radar as other destinations in the Yucatan, and we seem to be the lone Canadians among a sea of Germans, French and Italians.

The locals are very charming - this gentleman was singing as we walked by his bookstand, so we stopped to listen - he had a rich, beautiful voice. We clapped, and he came right over and began to serenade me - ending with an instruction for Stephen to give me a kiss! He then pulled out a photo of Prince Charles shaking his hand, dated 2014.


We met these happy souls outside a cantina, and they happily posed for us. When we walked by a couple of hours later, the cantina doors were locked up, but the singing and playing was carrying on.


Let's get the food out of the way, so I can concentrate on the positives. There are not a lot of good restaurants here, much less great ones. Possibly at a much higher price point we might have found something, but almost every place we've been to so far has been VERY average to mediocre. That is so disappointing to me - I love my food, and I love Mexican food, but so far we have not found a great taco, a fresh salad, an interesting sauce; not even great coffee. Two nights ago, our travel-addled brains kicked in again. There is a main pedestrian-only restaurant street that runs for three blocks, and many of the tables are out on the road - it is beautifully lit at night.


We stopped at one restaurant and ordered a litre of beer to share. It was a pub-style menu, but watching frozen crinkle fries and limp lettuce go by convinced us to move on. I had read on Tripadvisor that Chocol Ha was the #1 restaurant in Campeche, so based on that, we walked up a block and took a table outside.


Our waiter asked for a drink order, and because I thought he said "15 pesos" (in fact, he said 50 pesos), we ordered margaritas, strictly on price point. I rarely drink margaritas as tequila does not agree with me, and Stephen doesn't drink them at all, so what were we thinking? We had already had a litre of beer. Once he was in the restaurant preparing our drinks, we were stuck - we found out too late that Campeche's #1 restaurant, true to its name, specializes in chocolate and desserts. We ordered two paninis, and ended our evening carbed-out and slightly tipsy.


We wanted to visit Edzna, Maya ruins that are about 55 kms. south of here. We asked the young man at the front desk how to get there, and he drew us up a complicated map without road numbers. So we set out, without a proper map, or Google instructions, and ended up driving 2 hours, as we took the coast road and then had to double back. We are hoping three's a charm, and we have shaken off the travel curse.

Full disclosure - I can take ruins in small doses. An hour is just fine, and then I start to feel hot and out of sorts. I'm sorry, Dad - I will think of you when we are in Tulum and in Palenque - I know you would dearly love to see these ruins. I know you would not be complaining about the heat (34 degrees) and humidity (80 percent). You should be here instead of me.
The thing is, they are magnificent, even the minor Maya sites like Edzna. This site was inhabited from 600 BC to 15th century AD, and the integrity of the structures, the unbelievable architecture, and the sheer scale, is quite overwhelming. We climbed up a few structures - the photos do not begin to capture their immensity.




This bottom photo shows the only structure roped off from climbing - the side shot shows how fragile it is in spots.


We were distracted by the lizards and iguanas on site. As we drove into the parking lot, these two fellows were squaring off -
tossing their heads and hissing at each other.

Back to Campeche, which was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1999. Like most Mexican cities, the historical centre is the tourist attraction - where the main buildings, museums, hotels, and attractions are concentrated. In Campeche, the historical centre is set right on the Gulf and is surrounded by 25-foot limestone walls and bastions, which creates an enclosed, rather exclusive feeling - the rest of the city teems outside the gates.

This city suffered many years of pirate attacks (hence the fortification), and after that, wealthy Spanish families built mansions; some of which are still in their fully restored state. The cultural centre is housed in a former mansion.


The whole city centre is painted in pastels - greens, blues, yellows, and most of the buildings have been renovated. While the city is absolutely flat, the sightlines are still gorgeous.

The water right around Campeche is not suitable for swimming, but there is a malecon that runs for a number of kilometres along the Gulf. Unlike the beautiful and much-used malecon in Puerto Vallarta, this is cut off from the city by four lanes of (constant) traffic. We made our way safely over, but the absence of shade trees, landscaping and scarcely a single other living soul soon drove us back to the city. Very pretty, completely empty - so strange.



Sas - this one is for you! One of those serendipitous things - we stumbled upon a dance class practising folklorico - we could hear the percussive stomps from around the corner. We stopped to watch a roomful of sweaty dancers, all shod in tap shoes - one of the bystanders told us they were from north of Mexico City studying here in Campeche. Pure joy to watch.


Street sculptures - I am a sucker for them. I love accessible art and these sculptures invite children to climb on them, and silly tourists (like us) to pose beside them.



So much of Mexican life revolves around the plaza. Each night, there is a spectcular light, sound and animation show projected from the plaza onto screens on the Governor's Palace - a half-hour extravaganza that celebrates Campeche's history - showing the ruins, the jungle, the Spanish galleons, pirate ships, birds, animals - just a delight.


Some church and cathedrals - integral to life in Mexico


An odd image I can't make sense of - at first I thought it was a wolf, but I'm pretty sure it is a Chihuahua. Any ideas?


I'm glad we came - the Yucatan is so different from the rest of Mexico, and we're just starting to scratch the surface. I think this painting sums up Campeche for me - very pretty, but a bit confusing.

Off to Progreso tomorrow for a few days - we'll use this small port city as a base to visit Merida, Uxmal and the flamingos.

Posted by millerburr 17:10 Archived in Mexico Comments (9)

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 Comments (5)

What poverty looks like in Chiapas:

meeting Mexico's second-class citizens

semi-overcast 22 °C


Me again - such a big day I had to write down all my thoughts and impressions and pass them along.

We booked a tour to visit two indigenous villages close to San Cristobal, and again, my preconceived ideas were blown out of the water. Based on indigenous villages we had visited near Oaxaca a few years ago, I imagined picturesque towns, filled with weaving studios, and markets and shops operated with dignity and self-possession. Our group included an American woman, a couple from the U.K., another from France, and two young Chinese women. We were extremely lucky to have Adolpho as our guide. He spoke passionately about his country's troubles - the government corruption, the appalling education system, the brutality of the police and military, the oppression of free speech, and the anguish of his people having to live with such social injustice. Adolpho was born in Mexico City, has lived in Europe and travelled throughout North America, and has returned with mixed emotions to live in his country.


There are 68 languages in Mexico, and locally, 10 Mayan languages - each distinct from the other and from Spanish. We were to visit two indigenous villages, Zinacantan and San Juan Chamula - both populated by the Tzotzil people. Because of their proximity to San Cristobal, they receive a lot of tourists, and the government has applied a small entrance fee to both villages, and not one peso goes back to the community. Enroute to the first village, Adolpho told us about the criminal treatment of his country's indigenous people, not only by the government, which has intimidated and robbed them (hence the Zapatista uprising in the 90s), but by their own countrymen. Fellow Mexicans look down on them, considering them dirty and "sellers of chewing gum".

Adolpho explained that 55 million Mexicans live in poverty. The minimum wage is the equivalent of $5.18 US a day - what Stephen and I paid today for two coffees and pastries. Twenty-two million live in what is considered "extreme poverty", which means they don't have enough to eat. The indigenous Mexicans fall largely into the latter group. While school is considered mandatory in Mexico, attendance is not enforced. Further to that, families are required to buy uniforms and books in order for their children to attend, and these are luxuries that are beyond the reach for many Mexicans. As a result, many children stay home and work with their parents - selling trinkets on the street, or shining shoes, or selling Chiclets. The little girl in the top picture is one of millions of Mexican children whose future is bleak - at age 7 or 8, she already knows how to say "What's your name?", and " very good price". LIfe is earned one peso at a time, and it's never enough.


As soon as our van landed in Zinacantan, we were beset by groups of kids saying,"photo", "photo". They pose with you for 10 pesos (less than 1 dollar), and if we felt uncomfortable with the contrived photo op, Adolpho set us straight - this is a profitable revenue stream for them. Their "costumes" are in fact not costumes at all - these are their traditional, everyday clothing and each indigenous group has variations. We were told that purple is the "in" colour this year. This family appeared to have a little more comfort than many of the other villagers we saw.

The protocol around taking photos is very unequivocal - If you take a photo inside a church in these villages, you will be put in jail (probably after you are first beaten).

Taking photos of the exterior of churches and of the towns is acceptable, and if people happen to be caught in the middle, that is fine too. But, as Adolpho pointed out, nobody appreciates having a camera pointed at them (unless you have asked, and possibly paid for that privilege) - it is as rude here as anywhere. Common sense and respect go a long way.


The pristine white church in Zinacantan was simple inside - filled with flowers. This is a massive flower growing area, and no surprise - the calla lilies we pay a few dollars for at home earn the grower a few pennies a piece.

Next stop was a weaving cooperative where a number of women sell their wares. We watched this woman demonstrate how she weaves, with this simple hand-held loom.


We were ushered into a back room for our lunch. Two girls made fresh tortillas in front of us, while another woman cooked them on the tortilla grill, and we were invited to eat as many as we liked - topped with fresh cheese, beans, sauce and a tasty powder made from pumpkin.


From there, we drove to San Juan Chamula. Adolpho gave us a little background on these folks, whom he describes as "tough". Over the years, they have resisted both the Spanish invasion, and the "justice" of the Mexican police and government. Their religious practices are unique, their drinking habits prodigious, and as Adolpho said, "you don't want to mess with Chamulans." Duly noted. As we drove into town, it felt like we were going back in time by 200 years.

First stop - the church. Incredible inside - it is as much a healing centre as a church - the floor is covered in pine boughs, and families kneeling on the floor in front of candles - some silent, some chanting - all of them praying for a sick family member. Apparently, it is colour-coded - all white candles indicate nothing too serious; a number of coloured candles suggests more complications; and a great quantity of candles requires divine intervention. Candles on the floor are asking for favours from God - candles on the tables are giving thanks.


Last stop - the graveyard. Chamulans don't go in for the extravagant cemeteries, nor for the Day of the Dead celebrations found in most of Mexico. This simple cemetery had sheep grazing on one side, and an abandoned church in the centre.


Yesterday afternoon, we went over to the Na Bolom Museum, and as luck would have it, arrived in time for a guided tour. In this case, and in the case of our trip today, our guides made 1000 percent difference in our experience and understanding. This house belonged to Trudy and Frans Blom, whose combined archaeological, anthropological and photographic talents are showcased.


Trudy spoke seven languages before leaving Europe, then learned six Mayan languages during her life here, and she took over 55,000 photos of the Mayan people - most of them entirely unique, as she developed a rare trust that few outsiders attained. She and Frans lived a bohemian life, counting Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Trotsky among their many friends. Frans died in his seventies; his bohemian life having caught up with him. Trudy lived into her early 90s - an activist until the end.


portraits of Trudy and Frans


One of Trudy's dear friends - the wife of Emilio Zapata

This couple lived in Chiapas for decades and devoted themselves to the protection of the Mayan people, in particular the Lacadon people. They were instrumental in helping to slow down rampant clear-cutting of the jungle, and although they are both deceased, their property exists to continue on with their work. Scholars and volunteers come from all over the world to study the Mayan culture and languages. Indigenous families are housed and fed free of charge while in San Cristobal for medical treatments. A massive garden surrounds the many buildings, and a library of thousands of books and papers is available for students. This appears over the door to the library: roughly translated: Knowledge is necessary for peace and dignity


So much to think about - way too much to fit into a blog post. A few days ago, when Stephen and I were stopped at a light on our way to the canyon, I heard this death rattle beside me, and looked up to see an ancient old man with sightless eyes, begging for a few coins. For some reason, he scared me and I was paralyzed - I just stared at him, then the light changed, and we drove away. I can't stop thinking about him. At times the sheer number of people with their hands out is simply overwhelming. The level of truly dire poverty here is the worst we've encountered so far, and for every peso you give, you could be giving 100 more. We can only hope that the money we leave here is better than if we did not come here at all.

Much, much more to come in a couple of days...thanks for bearing witness with me.

Posted by millerburr 18:31 Archived in Mexico Comments (7)

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