One of the amazing things about Chiapas, that is, besides the mist-wrapped mountains and Caribbean-clear rivers, is its rich and vibrant indigenous culture. Of the 4.2 million people of Chiapas, more than 25% are indigenous groups, mostly Mayan. There are at least nine languages spoken and each ethnic group has its own beliefs, traditions and dress customs. Tzotzil and Tzetzil clothing, specifically, is the most varied and colorful in Mexico and often identifies the wearers’ village. One of the things we were most looking forward to during our stay in the state was visiting some of the smaller Mayan villages that surround San Cristóbal.
San Cristóbal was one of the cities I was really looking forward to visiting prior to our departure. Nestled in the mountains of Chiapas, the city has the familiar colonial charm we’ve become accustomed to in Mexico – cobblestone streets, colorful homes, clean and winding streets perfect for strolling. But what really makes San Cristóbal distinctive is the predominant and immediately obvious indigenous presence. Due to its location in the heart of Mexico’s Mayan population, the city is ripe with the culture and customs of the Maya.
One of the tricky parts of continuous travel is that with every new day comes a new place to research. Always a new town with a brand new list of must see items. Guide books are obviously a good starting point, but seldom do they give you what we consider the “good stuff”. The stuff the locals know: how to avoid the traps, where to get an authentic yet cheap meal, or how to avoid the crowds and get off the beaten track. When we were in Oaxaca I visited a few outfitters not with the intention of purchasing services but only in the hopes of gathering information. I hit the jackpot when I met Eric, a native Oaxacan who was kind enough to spend over an hour giving me the goods. I left with a laundry list of enticing places to see and things to do. If not for him we may not have stopped in San Jose Del Pacifico, nor would we have been likely to stop in Chiapas de Corzo to take a tour of Canyon Sumidero. When we arrived in Chipas de Corzo we quickly realized we had lucked out again in that we had coincidentally arrived during their week long annual fiesta. And if there’s only one thing we’ve learned about travelling through Mexico it is to never pass up an opportunity to fiesta.