I have wanted to visit Chiapas for years. It is remote, primitive and beautiful. It is a land of many different terrains and indigenous groups. We visited 7 very different locations including the eco village of Villahermosa, the ruins at Palenque, the magnificent Miso-Ha Waterfall, the crystal blue waters of Cascadas Agua Azul, the beautiful city of San Cristobal de las Casas, the spectacular Sumidara Canyon, and the sweet town of Chiapa de Corzo on the gigantic Grijalva River. It was an adventure from beginning to end.
Chiapas has a reputation for unrest which makes most people think it is dangerous to travel there. And while they have problems from time to time, it is a very kind and peaceful place where tourists are safe and welcome.
We visited the Mayan ruins and museum at Palenque which were magnificent. And we stopped at the famous Cascadas de Agua Azul, a series of waterfalls found on the Xanil River known for their crystal blue color. The rain forest here (Lacandon Jungle) is one of the last remaining in North America as it stretches south to Guatemala. Sadly it is being cut down for farming corn, and the people do not understand about crop rotation, and so they are constantly cutting down more trees. There are better practices being taught but it has been a slow transition. The people here are just trying to survive and are not educated. Hopefully things will change soon or we will lose this resource that will take 500 years to replace.
Then we reached the beautiful city of San Cristobal de las Casas to find that all the major churches had been affected by recent earthquakes and were walled off with corrugated steel until repaired. But the charm and beauty of the city were still there for all to see.
This area is mostly known for textiles. Back strap loom weaving and hand embroidery are the two most common crafts here. I am in awe of the work that goes into all their pieces and how masterful they are with color combinations. Click on the images below to see them larger.
I was drawn to Chiapas because of metal crosses I had seen in other regions of Mexico. When I asked where they were from, it was always Chiapas. We visited the workshop and gallery of one of the most well know metalsmiths of the San Cristobal, Guadelupe Hermosilla. Beautiful work. You can click on the images below to see them larger.
Perhaps the high point of our trip, of which there were so many, was a visit to two nearby villages, Chamula and San Lorenzo Zinacantan, where we were able to observe old world traditions and ceremonies in their churches and zocalos (city centers).
I will be forever moved by this trip to Chiapas. These kind and loving people here need our financial support. Our tourist dollars are what fuel their local economy and make opportunities for the indigenous people. You will be shocked at how inexpensive everything is. Something that can take a person a day to make sells for about 2-3.00. I will be back for sure...and with a much larger suitcase next time.
In San Cristobal is an old nunnery called Na-Balom (House of the Jaguar) where Frans Blom an explorer and archeologist, and Gertrude Duby Blom, a journalist and photographer created their home and spent over fifty years in Chiapas collecting tools, crafts, archeological pieces and clothing, especially related to the Lacandon Jungle and people. The museum holds a wealth of history about this primitive tribe that still exists today.
In San Cristobal, lives Sergio Castro, a healer who serves the poorest of people every day of the week for free. He supports his efforts with donations from tourists to his museum where he has collected the traditional clothing of more than 20 indigenous groups of Chiapas. His presentation is excellent, entertaining and succinct. He has been recognized by news media all over the world and honored for his humanitarian work. Click on the images to see them larger.