Wednesday, 27 June 2012

San Cristobal de Las Casas MEXICO

I'm getting close to the bottom of Mexico. From Puerto Escondido I ride to San Cristobal de Las Casas.. could they make that name any longer???

It feels great to be riding through the countryside of Mexico.. total freedom. Nice roads, not much traffic, happy days.


I stopped for fuel and said g'day to these pilgrims.  The men that pumped my fuel were just as keen to jump in!  They are all so full of energy, and...... happiness!!

I have passed so many groups of young people running along the road with a torch... barefoot!  I've asked and learned it's a yearly pilgrimage in the name of the Virgen de Guadalupe.   Their destination is also San Cristobal (hope it's okay to take off the last 3 words of the town name for now) and we still have a couple hundred kilometers to go.  I wondered who is the Virgen de Guadalupe?

She appeared in Mexico over 530 years ago.. and has since been the unity to the mostly Catholic nation.  I found the best explanation below:

SHE IS THE CRADLE OF MEXICANISM

Beginning to understand the intense relationship between Mexicans and La Virgen is to begin to understand the people of this great and confusing nation of contrasts

In ten years of oppression by the Spaniards, the Indians had been worn down, their spirit was broken, but relatively few had been baptized as Christians. Even those who had been converted to Catholicism missed the closeness of worshiping their own gods. They were separated from the Gods that belonged to them, that looked like them. They felt orphaned by their gods, and then adopted into a religion where they didn’t feel they belonged. When the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe appeared, brown skinned, and speaking a local language, they again had an object of worship that was their very own. She was a shield of the weak, help of the oppressed, the mother of orphans.

The appearance of Guadalupe on Tepeyac, the site of the destroyed Aztec temple of Tonantzin, the Mother Earth Goddess restored the dignity and the spirit of the people. Her arrival is said to mark the birth of a new land and a new people, neither European nor pre-hispanic, but both, the first product of the New World. Even her physical appearance announced the newness of this world, for her face looked neither like the Spanish nor the Indian. Her lovely features are the pleasant mixture of both - she is a Mestizo, the first Mexican.  This explanation plus lots more info in the link below.

http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1404-la-virgen-de-guadalupe-mother-of-all-mexico

Lunch time in the mountains of Mexico!  Not much to choose from, so just take what you can get when you see some smoke coming out of roadside shop.   And a good choice it is!!!


Super yummy, super nice lady who made sure I ate well.  She expressed (a lot) her concern for me traveling as a woman alone.  I assured her and I think convinced her, that really after this many countries on my motorcycle, I am fine!

Another group!  They are so dedicated, I can't believe the way they are traveling. And I feel a bit guilty as many of them jump and cheer for me when I pass on the bike.  They really make me think about the sacrifices we can choose to make for whatever we believe in.


Another different group.  From looking at their flags or signs, they represent their church from either a region or a neighborhood in a particular town.


In the mountains I start encountering the indigenous Maya people.  I am so in love with their dress and colors.  Each village has their own laws, dress codes and languages. 






In the last post I showed part of a missing road on a different mountain pass.  This one at least has a warning sign.. most often they don't!


Awww, man.  I got busted sneaking in a photo! 



I have been to Mexico several times when I was younger but it was either Yucatan or Puerto Vallarta.  Now that I am down in the south, the culture and dress has changed so much.  I really didn't expect this, but I like it!


I'm not sure where that guy came from on the bike below.  So unusual around here!  A very clear contrast of traditional and modern lifestyle.


Finally got into San Cristobal right before the sun went down.  And now begins the job of finding a place to sleep tonight.

This photo with my bike the town seems so peaceful and quiet.. wrong!! What the photo can't show is the continuous "POW!!" of homemade fireworks in the sky.. at all times, at all hours of the day and night. Wait until you see the streets tomorrow!


I'm only here 10 minutes and totally in love with this town.  I might have to stay 2 nights instead of 1. San Cristobal de Las Casas is considered the cultural capital of the state of Chiapas.. And I can see why!


At this gorgeous church is one the best party creations of all time, the Pinata!!!  Surprising to me, the adults were as much attacking it as the children were! I would have too !! ;-)




And just outside this church on the street, I have a new favorite Mexican meal... Mmmmmmmm... LOVE IT!!!  Cheese empenadas with salad on top.. and they use beetroot here, even better!


The next day I walk around town witnessing group after group after group of pilgrims who are making their way to the Cathedral de la Virgen de Guadalupe. Many of these groups I would have passed on the road.  They are tired and dirty, but they still chant loudly their dedication to Guadalupe.


The only thing I can guess by the nice clothes and sneakers in the group below is they are from San Cristobal, and only had to meet this morning?  I really don't know.  They really stand out compared to the others.



I climb up the hill where the Cathedral de la Virgen Guadelupe is and the crowds and food are going to make it that much harder for the pilgrims to get through to the altar inside.  This is quite the festival and again, it's not just the locals, many people have come from far and wide to be here today.  I did too, however, I had no idea it was happening today.  I was just coming to San Cristobal because I heard it was a great town to see full of culture!




I needed to throw in this photo.  There is a man holding the hand of a little girl dressed for the Virgen and chanting her little heart out.. can we just discuss the shirt HE is wearing???!!!



















The church is up the hill.. nearly there guys.  "Curiously, the power of belief in the Virgin of Guadalupe has little to do with membership or attendance in the church. In fact, it is said that while 89 of 100 Mexicans are Catholic, it is certain that 100 of 100 Mexicans are Guadalupanas, devotees to the Virgin."  http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1404-la-virgen-de-guadalupe-mother-of-all-mexico



If you are not on the crowded path of the Virgen, San Cristobal de Las Casas is a gorgeous lovely town to visit. I feel like I want to stay longer.  It's very charming.. BUT!  I am still as behind as I was and need to catch up.  I hope to return to this place someday.

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