San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas: First Impressions


San Cristobal de las Casas is a compact, walkable mountain town filled with energy, cafes that seat 10 or 15 people at most, coffee and wine bars, and villagers from indigenous pueblos selling crafts in markets, street corners and along the foot-traffic-only promenades that criss-cross the center.  Textile cooperatives abound and the city attracts an international artist-counterculture community of creatives.


The textiles here are extraordinary and I have spent the first two days exploring, looking, discerning the different quality in handcrafts and weaving.  In the days to come, I’ll write about our visit to Na Bolom and highlight the visit we had with Sergio Castro in his private textile museum near the zocalo.  Nearby organic coffee farms, locally owned and operated, offer a rich, tasty brew.


First impressions can always be a little dangerous because I have a tendency to jump to conclusions, especially after a long overnight bus ride with very little sleep.  This town is growing on me.  It is very different from Oaxaca which is an elegant, colonial city with wide thoroughfares and distinguished cuisine.  San Cristobal seems like an outpost in comparison.  It reminds me of Beijing hutongs — narrow winding streets, clay tiled roofs covering steep pitched roofs, weathered wood and adobe structures, ancient wood doors and windows kept shut with hand-forged metal.  But, it is full of hidden treasures.


There is character here.  And, it is an international crossroads between Guatemala and Mexico.  San Cristobal attracts backpackers, artists, spiritual seekers and textile mavens.  We have also come across university professors from the U.S. who research the indigenous languages, culture, social and political systems.  It is rich, especially because of centuries-old resistance to oppressive government.  Take your choice:  Aztecs, Spaniards, and more contemporary varieties.  Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas are revered here and have a presence in the city with an indigenous handcraft gallery.  Every textile shop and street vendor sells a version of a Zapatista cloth doll with black hat and face mask.


The climate now is very chilly nights and mild, partly cloudy days that make it easy to sit at a sidewalk cafe during the day and snuggle up next to a fire next to the restaurant table at night.

It’s 8:45 a.m. and time for breakfast, so I will write more, catch as catch can.


6 responses to “San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas: First Impressions

  1. Cynthia Calkins Mercado

    Nice to have met you tonight in Napoli! Looks like you might be staying with our friends Robb & Rebecca in Posada Abuelito!? Glad you’re enjoying San Cris. If you get a chance head to Oventic (autonomous Zapatista pueblo), it’s a fascinating place. Great blog btw!

  2. Norma,
    Sounds like you’re enjoying yourself. Sergio Castro is trauly a sainted individual. I too have visited his museum and clinic and about 2 months ago we had a fundraiser here in San Miguel for him where the wonderful documentary about him was shown. You might want to do the same in Oaxaca. He needs all the financial help he can get.

    • Hi Linda, yes, I totally agree with you about supporting Sergio Castro and his work. His burn victims he treats range from small children to older adults. Their injuries can be severe, caused by gasoline explosion, mis-fired firecrackers, and other related causes. He is like a curandero. Will plan to write more about him later. Besos, Norma

  3. Norma, I’m so glad you’re enjoying San Cristobal…it’s one of my favorite places too! Don’t forget to check out the church in Chamula (an unusual mix of Catholocism and indigenous religion). The Museum of Mayan Medicine is also really fascinating and definitely worth a visit. Also, just fyi, the ski-masked dolls are Zapatistas, as the Zapatista uprising happened in Chiapas in 1994.

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