Friday, December 30, 2011

Mexican X-mas - feliz!

Christmas came to San Cristobal on Dec 24th no matter even if for me it still didn’t feel at all like Christmas. The decorations, the carols (mostly those I heard sounded like the ones you hear if you open a tacky Christmas card), Christmas trees – and there were even real pine trees in San Cristobal – didn’t make me feel anything like Christmas, in a way I feel at home. And that was a good thing, I didn’t want to start pining back to Finland!

I don’t know how much the holidays affected the Mexican lives but there sure were tons of people out on the streets every day. And all the shops, stalls, food vendors, cafes and restaurants were open all through the Christmas Eve (and through the entire holiday season!).

Me and my San Cristobal buddies left to see a closeby village of San Juan Chamula. San Juan Chamula is a mysterious and very traditional poor village up from San Cristobal. In the middle of the town, 2200m above the sea, you’ll find one of the funkiest churches I could ever imagine. It was a great time to visit it on Christmas eve! The church itself was a beautiful big white building with green and blue ornaments surrounding the massive wooden door. The floor was covered in long pine needles all over with the exception of small areas which people cleared to place sets of thin candles. When we entered the church there was a group of people dressed in traditional clothing, some looking more like a old fashioned cattle rancher, some wearing something like a military uniform and ladies in their traditional dresses. All chanting their own prayers.

The only picture I took from San Juan Chamula - no photography in town or especially in the church to respect the locals. The church is in the middle.
The sides of the churches were lined with carved wooden boxes that housed statues of different saints, altogether there were more than 20 of them. In front of all of these there were wooden tables with large vases of live flowers and tens of candles. So the whole church was lined with twinkling candles, all over. The church was filled with live flowers too, colorful large arrangements hanging from the high ceiling, along with strips of flower-print canvases with fringes, looking like some 70s curtains. People were standing and sitting on the floor, lighting more candles, praying, feeding their children. One guy in his traditional “cattle rancher” outfit came up to me – “Hola. Hi! How’re you doing?” So surprising to hear English there!

The altar was the most bizarre of all, covered all around with palm leaves, pine braches, citrus tree branches, all draped in Christmas decorations and different color balloons (!) in layers and layers, filling the altar surroundings up to the roof. The altar itself was covered in Las Vegas type Christmas lights, blinking and changing colors. A Christmas medley was bleeping mechanically in the background, along with a praying family’s chants. You could smell the pine needles and incents. It was the weirdest combination!

We took a walk in the village and were instantly followed by a number of begging children. “Un peso, un peso, para mi tortilla”. Or old ladies selling their hand crafted dolls or clothes. People are still very polite. Dogs are everywhere (like all over Mexico so far), looking happy and sad at the same time – and they stay clear from people. There was also a big Coca Cola warehouse in the tiny poor village.. the strangest things.

The Christmas eve night we’d decided to spend with our big multicultural group in Entropia, tiny French restaurant in San Cristobal. We took a long time with the French owner to arrange the various tables so that we all could fit, practically filled the entire place. “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas”.

A collage of my "Christmas stuff in Mexico"
The food was lovely, we had brought some wine and the company was fantastic! The dinner ended with a tricky but hilarious music quiz! We left the restaurant to the nearby hostel for drinks and to break the piñata which the lovely Australian girls had gotten for us. We all got to have a crack at it – wasn’t easy to hit it, let alone break it! Then out to the street for some sparklers and firecrackers, and on to the club where we (believe it or not, on Christmas eve) danced the night away, literally! I got back to my hostel just before 6am.

What a finish to my stay in San Cristobal!

Now back on the beach, there are some things I miss about San Cristobal: no mosqitoes, no sweating, lovely people. Was a great place – but the beaches were calling me back! ;)

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