A city inmid of Mexican mountians - San Cristóbal de las Casas

travel , backpacking , mexico , chiapas

What is a San Cristóbal Free Walking Tour?

Itʼs a guided walking tour, focused mainly on individual travelers (Backpackers), who are searching to discover the city and learn more about the attractions of the place. At the end of the tour the Backpackers (travelers) will give a voluntary tip to the guide, as recognition for the time given and the effort in preparing the tour.

INTRODUCTION

San Cristobal de las Casas is located in a fertile valley surrounded by mountains in the state of Chiapas, South of Mexico. It is home to a number of indigenous groups, descendants of the Mayan culture; two of the largest are called Tzotziles and Tzeltales, which are living in highland villages surrounding San Cristobal. Indigenous people of Chiapas speak their own language (often in addition to Spanish), continue their own practices and can be identified by their traditional dress, which varies according to the group. They continue to rely mainly on agriculture for their economic well-being; but nevertheless, it is not rare that they travel to San Cristobal to sell their handmade crafts and buy goods at the market to bring back to their villages. San Cristobal is one of the best preserved colonial cities in Mexico. Itʼs made up of a series of traditional neighborhoods, each is known for a particular trade or specific custom, such as ironwork, carpentry and woodcarving.

DESCRIPTION

Of colonial baroque style, it was built between 1547 and 1551 by the Dominican order. Cracked after an earthquake in 1902, the temple was restored in 1975 and its facade again fully restored in 2006. It is this facade the highlight of the temple with an elaborate ornamentation, three vertical streets, its iconography with organic motifs, sculpture and relief. Inside a golden wood carved pulpit will astound you. The temple of Santo Domingo in San Cristobal de Las Casas (Chiapas, Mexico), as we know it today, was completed in 1698. Its facade-altarpiece is an outstanding display of baroque artistic expression, thanks to the delicate work of relief, showing through all the surface of the front. The colored stucco, as a finishing material is one of the main features of San Cristobal architecture. The front, considered the most important artistic manifestation in the architecture built by the Dominicans in Chiapas, is oriented towards the west side of the temple and its general measures are 24m high by 18.5 meters wide.The latest intervention of the facade of Santo Domingo was in the 70s of the XX century. It was carried out by the architect Vicente Guerrero, and focused on its consolidation and structural stabilization, because the central part was in danger of collapse.

THE HANDICRAFT MARKET OF SANTO DOMINGO

Itʼs a colorful outdoor market with indigenous crafts surrounding the construction of the Temple and ex Convent of Santo Domingo and the Temple of Charity. Open every day, it is one of the favorite places of international tourism, which stroll along the different stands full of creativity and ancestral traditions embodied in countless weavings, embroidery, jewelry, basketry, leatherwork and textiles.

NEIGHBORHOOD CERRILLO

El Cerrillo is located to the north of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in the highlands of Chiapas. In the colonial times, this town was known as Ciudad Real and was formed by a center and six indigenous neighborhoods, one being El Cerrillo, founded in 1549. The manumisos, natives of the region, mainly Tzotziles and Tzeltales settle there. They decided to stay and receive the gospel of the Dominicans. In time the neighborhood was population became mestizo. Most houses in El Cerrillo share a number of elements that evoke the past. Entering the houses youʼll find a patio with cement or stone floors, adorned with plants, mostly shrubs; in the center or side usually a fountain or a water well. The yard is surrounded by a corridor with roof tiles, supported by "pillars" -Columns of cement or wood-; this space serves as an entrance room, with couches or chairs, ornaments and plants. The corridor gives access to the bedrooms, living room and kitchen, surrounding the patio. A lot of houses have been divided after being inherited by various relatives, reducing both, the size of the courtyard and the number of rooms surrounding it. Towards the back of the house you can usually find a service room and another patio with dirt floor, which the Coletos call "site" used to growing fruit trees, raising poultry and domestic chores such as laundry.

After the mestizaje and the sociodemographic changes that San Cristobal de Las Casas

underwent, the residents of El Cerrillo praise their "Coleto being" and try to preserve those traits that represent them. The sense of belonging to the neighborhood is reinforced year after year with a "neighborhood celebration" hold every August 6, in honor of the Lord of the Transfiguration. The word Coleto refers to a mestizo native of San Cristobal de Las Casas that has a 'consanguineous continuity ́ in the city, coming from a family dating back several generations in the vicinity. Often the Coletos emphasize the existence of some European ancestor in their family, usually Spanish. Likewise, the European ancestry shows in cultural expressions like in the traditional cuisine, for example, the preparation of sausages, which remains a common activity of the Coletos. It should be mention that the preparation of traditional dishes often involves the use of spices and fruits, which are coming from the plants grown in the houses. The practice of the Catholic religion is characteristic among Coletos and involves participation in festivities such as Masses, prayers and patron saintʼs day celebration in the neighborhood. Throughout history, a Coleto identity has developed with particular traits in each neighborhood of the city. They can be found in the architecture, the Catholic religion, crafts (blacksmithʼs in El

Cerrillo, saddlery and leather work in the Center, and carpenters in the Mexican neighborhoods), and gastronomy, especially in the production of sausages, tamales and traditional sweets. On the other hand, the level of schooling plays an important role in this group, while social status often go hand in hand with academic qualifications. Being Coleto also implies a strict compliance with gender roles; that is, the man performs tasks in the public sphere and women is restricted to household chores, with a modest attitude and without questioning the decisions made by men in public. The colonial architecture is part of the Coleto identity. The houses are conformed by a central courtyard, surrounded by corridors where the rooms align; in this yard there are fruit trees and flowers. Although the subdivision of these old houses had changed its sizes, the courtyards were mostly preserved, albeit a reduction in size. In the new constructions, typical spaces from colonial architecture were removed (such as patios and gardens, characterized by the presence of plants

and also family life). Nevertheless other places were adapted to place plants, such as rooftops, halls and kitchens. It should be noticed that there is a distinction between Coletos from the Center and the ones from the neighborhoods. While the first are mostly members of families with European origin, economically and politically dominant, and are conceived as people of rank, the Coletos from the neighborhoods are mostly mestizos, with a lower economic status. Also, the sense of belonging to the neighborhood is of great importance, being the church the center of its identity; this shows especially on patron saintʼs day celebrations. Itʼs important to notice the population growth that has taken place in San Cristobal de Las Casas over the past three decades. "It transformed its urban profile, that has little to do with the one described by anthropologists in the sixties". The Coleta woman and the plants. Throughout their history, womenʼs role in San Cristobal de Las Casas, has been placed within the domestic area. Caring for the plants is one of the household tasks done by women. Considered as pleasurable, itʼs identified with joy, life and relaxation. It is common for women to talk to their plants, both to ask them how theyʼre doing and to share

their feelings and experiences. Plants are companions in the domestic sphere, with which

everyday life is shared.

THE CHURCH OF GUADALUPE

Surrounded by a quiet tree populated square, this church has a single aisle with a lateral chapel built on the top of Guadalupeʼ hill in 1834. There are 79 steps to reach the top where youʼll find a unique panoramic view of the city. In the main altar youʼll find a canvas of the Virgin of Guadalupe in excellent conditions and in the chapel a sculpture of the virgin dating from 1850. Celebration Day: 12 of December.

COFFEE TASTING

Chiapas is a state with a long tradition in the cultivation and marketing of coffee. This African

rubiacea of aromatic grain was first introduced from Guatemala in 1847 to a small population in Chiapas, the village called “Tuxtla Chico”. Since then, the coffee from Chiapas is known for growing in the best climate and ground conditions, and most importantly, generations of people had cultivated it with great passion, to such quality that today, after 153 years, its farming is irreplaceable in mountainous regions. According to the Mexican Coffee Council, of the 12 producing states in Mexico, Chiapas occupies an honorable national first place. The type of coffee most produced in the state and in Mexico is the "Arabica" (Coffeea-arabica), which is grown almost entirely on steep slopes, under the shade of trees and with a very limited use of agrochemicals, features that makes it a crop environmentally green par excellence. We also have the "robusta" coffee (Coffeea canephora), the other type that is produced commercially in the world and is used mainly in the industry of soluble coffees.

Most of the producers are communal landholders or “ejidatarios” (many belonging to indigenous groups). They plant coffee in areas less than two hectares, reflecting the preponderantly social interest of the crop.

The aromatic grain crop is characteristic of the mountainous regions of Soconusco, where slopes and deep valleys are part of their domains. This is the best soil for development at altitudes, in this case between 600 and 1500 meters above sea level, with abundant rains. For this reason Chiapas occupies the first place in national production of Coffee.Chiapas is a world leader in the production of organic coffee. 80% of Chiapas coffee is exported to Taiwan, Japan, Spain, Holland, Italy and other European countries. Coffee plantations in Chiapas have organized a “Coffee Route”, where the main producers are included. They also established the Coffee Museum in San Cristobal de Las Casas and in Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

TASTING OF TYPICAL DISHES

Platillos típicos

This enigmatic city has a rich legacy of dishes and a wide mix of flavors. On the one hand we have the indigenous gastronomy, which includes seeds, herbs and various spices; on the other hand it includes, European style sausages, Serrano ham (originally from Spain), butifarra (a type of sausage from the Catalan cuisine), and pork sausage. The sweets of this region reflect the mix of cultures. It came clear in the XVII century with the arrival of the nuns to Ciudad Real, known today as San Cristobal de Las Casas. The gastronomy of the Coletas was born from the mixture of the prehispanic food and the one brought by the Europeans, whose diversity lies mainly in the seeds, vegetables and herbs in conjunction with some poultry, and some other spices mixed with pork and beef meat of Spanish origin, and the most traditional species, such as pepper, raisins and saffron, used in mixes to make tamales, chicken stew or to make a bread soup.

PLAZA DE LA RESISTENCIA

The main square of the old Ciudad Real has been the central public space for social engagement. All kinds of events take place there, then and now. The Plaza de Armas, as the place was known, is by definition the heart of the city around which the main public and private buildings were settled, such as the cathedral, the town halls, different kinds of shops and the houses of the principal inhabitants of the city. In short, all the roads that were traced in the early Ciudad Real concurred there. The name centro is the right one since is the center point for political, economic and civic activities, cultural life, etc.

Brief presentation of the history of the EZLN and photographs of the 1994 Movement. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) is a Mexican armed organization formed by peasants belonging to indigenous groups from the regions of Chamula, Tzeltal, Tojolabal, Chol and Lacandon. In 1994 they rise in the Mexican state of Chiapas, to the orders of a small military leadership, led by the mestizo Subcomandante Marcos. The name of the movement was in honor of the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.

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