April 23, 2015

Chiapas, Mexico

I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me. -Walt Whitman

Kevin and I made a last minute decision to head to Chiapas, Mexico for Holy Week.  We decided to take a couple of days off from work and check out the beautiful, colonial city in southern Mexico.  The trip was an adventure!  We decided that we should go by bus for economic reasons, but this meant four days of traveling through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala to finally arrive in Mexico.  In the end, I still think it was a good decision, but Kevin has a different opinion due to his longer legs and the knee pain that incurred.  We had some issues in Honduras on the way in and the way out.  On the way in, we didn’t have record of our yellow fever immunizations (we were the only two people asked out of sixty) and were asked to each pay a $160 fee, we paid a bribe instead.  And on the way out, we ate some chicken which gave us salmonella poisoning.  After three weeks of symptoms and an iv for Kevin due to extreme dehydration, we think that we are officially better.

And yet, it was all worth it to visit this amazing place.  Our friend Miriam, who works for MCC in the area of sustainable agriculture has lived in Chiapas for the past four years.  She has visited us several times in Managua and so we thought we owed her a visit.  We hope that you enjoy this post filled with beautiful scenery, Mexican food, Mayan culture, more Mexican food, textiles and lastly Mexican food.

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Who lives, sees much, who travels, sees more. -Arabian Proverb

The colonial town of San Cristóbal de las Casas is picturesque – cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, pedestrian walking streets and old churches provide a quaint feeling as you walk and explore the city.  We loved that it was a pedestrian centered city and that it was relatively safe to walk late at night.  We may have gotten a little jealous of Miriam’s life in Chiapas as we reflected on our life in Managua, but we were quickly reminded at how wonderful our life is in Nicaragua, albeit very different.

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We visited this family owned Mexican restaurant for tacos on our first night and our last night in Chiapas.  Imagine fresh pork with pineapple on tiny flour tortillas, along with veggies and unlimited amounts of salsas.  It was incredible.

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Unlike our markets in Nicaragua, the San Cristóbal de las Casas food market was a lovely place to take a stroll.  We enjoyed seeing the various foods that were sold and came home with a lot of coffee, cocoa and peppers.

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Look at these lovely beans.  The color is delightful!

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Each morning, we would pass through the market and buy a fresh-squeezed orange juice (without added sugar) and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We especially enjoyed the berries which are grown in the mountains of Chiapas.

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Kevin was very excited about all of the peppers that he had access to in Chiapas.  He made hot sauces and salsas a couple of times while we were there and bought several varieties to bring home.  He even made and froze a tomatillo sauce that successfully made it back with us to Nicaragua via bus.

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I loved these pots of flowers on the side of someone’s home.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page. -St. Augustine

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We visited the Mayan ruins at Tonina.  It was our first experience to see something like this and we had an incredible day of exploring and hiking to the top.

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We visited several Mayan Catholic churches.  The members of this church in San Juan de Chamula were celebrating Holy Week and it was interesting to witness their worship practices.

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Here I am eating the best mango of my life – a mango on a stick with chili, cut in such a way so that your face can stay clean while you consume the deliciousness.  This needs to be introduced at the MN State Fair!

I wandered everywhere, through cities and countries wide. And everywhere I went, the world was on my side. -Roman Payne

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This picture was taken in the market one day.  I loved the row of pops that were available.

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I personally spent a lot of time learning about the various Mayan textiles.  Each indigenous community is known for a different type of embroidery work and they wear the lovely textiles on a regular basis.  I spent several hours at this textile market obsessing over the beautiful art that these women had created.  I was also able to visit the Mayan Textile Museum and could have spent all day there.  Friends and family, you may be receiving beautiful embroidery work for Christmas this year!

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Traditional Mayan indigenous religion centers on the fact that God meets you at the high places.  Thus, we hiked to several churches which were built at the highest points of the city due to the fact that the conquistadors sought to take over the places considered sacred by the Mayan, in-order to convert them to Christianity and destroy any chance of religious syncretism.  The highlight of our time in Chiapas, was a Catholic and Mayan Easter worship service that we were invited to which combined traditional Mayan worship with the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection.  We are very much indebted to Miriam and the relationships and community that she has nurtured during her time living in Chiapas, as we would have never been invited as tourists to this very sacred and special event.  We left at 5pm one afternoon and drove to an isolated location a couple hours outside of San Cristóbal de las Casas.  We began our hike up the mountain in the dark and arrived at the summit by 9pm.  We spent the evening on top of the mountain, witnessing a beautiful Mayan expression of faith.  We lit candles together, ate a meal around midnight and discussed how Mayan faith and Christianity could be reconciled as we all seek to live out our love for the Creator.  It was a cold night, but a beautiful one; a night filled with laughter, celebration and tears within the community that we were welcomed into.  When the sun rose, we headed back down the mountain, cold but refreshed from this moving experience.

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Thanks Miriam for hosting us!

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You can clearly see that we had a great time!

I do not bring back from a journey quite the same self that I took. -W. Somerset Maugham

2 comments:

r.c.f. said...

Wow! What an amazing trip. Sorry to hear about all of the hiccups and illnesses, though! Sounds like a lot of unforgettable experiences, though.

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