San Cristobal de las Casas
This past weekend, we traveled to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas to experience Day of the Dead and to enjoy the city. On our 12 hour drive to Chiapas, we stopped in Palenque. Palenque is another Mayan ruin that is settled within the jungle. We had a tour guide who showed us around the archaeology site. I am currently taking a Mayan archaeology class at the University. It is so fascinating to actually travel to these sites and talk about what I have been learning all semester. It also helps put pieces of the puzzle together in my head. It is one thing to read about these places, but another to be hands on with them. Palenque was beautiful and also located within the jungle which was even cooler. The tour guide said that Palenque was so well preserved because the jungle protected it for all these years until it was discovered. Palenque had been abandoned even before the arrival of the conquistadors. Hernan Cortes did not view Palenque in his life time because it was already lost to the jungle. Being in the jungle was very different then being in Merida. Merida is a sprawling city very close to the sea, but Palenque is crawling with life because it is within the “selva” or jungle. It was very humid while we toured Palenque and made me think of my parents stories about the jungles of Costa Rica.
After Palenque, we got back on the road. San Cristobal is located in the mountains and is very cold. I am from Ohio and the cold has never really been a problem. But, especially after living for 2 months in hot and sweaty Merida, I was frigid for the majority of our trip to Chiapas. While we were driving through the mountains, it reminded me of my many trips through the mountains of West Virginia. It was nice having this little piece of home while I was so far away from my home town. It has been hard to be away for so long. I also really miss fall and winter in Ohio. The leaves are so beautiful during Autumn in Ohio and the winter time is my favorite season on my beautiful campus. However, San Cristobal was a breath of fresh cold air.
I was so excited when we arrived in San Cristobal. Not only because we had been riding in a van for 8 hours, but also because the vacation was exciting. We were here to explore the city, enjoy the culture, and essentially have a break from the stressful and monotonous work of school. My favorite part of San Cristobal was all the hot chocolate that I drank day in and day out. At night, I would ask for Kahlua to be added to my hot chocolate to give it an extra sweet taste. The city of San Cristobal is full of beautiful architecture and rich history. We had the opportunity to explore many different museums and churches.
The best part of the five days that we spent in San Cristobal was going to the small towns and cemeteries to experience day of the dead. I am fascinated with the architecture and sculptures that are located within cemeteries in the United States, so I was very excited to be traveling to the cemeteries here in Mexico. In the small towns, people were gathered around the cemeteries preparing the graves and leaving gifts for the dead. It was truly an amazing experience. I did not think that after all my studying in the United States about Dia de los Muertos that I would get to actually be in Mexico for this extraordinary day. Meanwhile, while I was enjoying day of the dead in San Cristobal, my parents arrived in Merida to experience day of the dead there. When I arrived back at Merida, my parents had so many photos, stories, and friends to share with me about their own experience.