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San Cristobal de Las Casas

San Cristobal de las Casas is just a few hours up from the jungle but the air cools dramatically, crisp breezes from the hills replacing the moist breath of the lowlands. There are dense forests all around San Cristobal that stretch across much of Chiapas and provide cover for the Zapatistas.

Walking through San Cristobal is like taking a stroll through an artist’s paint box. The houses are coloured either amber, sky blue or violet; white facades border onto crimson or green. The low houses are are decked with slate roofs of a smoky red.

The simple beauty of the place makes you ask yourself how come these poor Mexican towns can afford to look so good when the rich cities of the West are all so grey and ugly? Is there some charity here that gives out paint for free?

The city s small enough to walk around in a day but you won’t as there’s too many shady plazas to chill in. Old churches of white and blue overlook these and it’s as though they were painted to complement the sky. Other churches look like they’ve been left out in the rain for too long.

Even on the churches you see the Zapatista grafitti of Vive el revolution and San Crisotbal de las Casas is, after all, the capital of Chiapas and the Zapatista rebellion. Sub Commandante Marcos comes here to rally every now and then and the plazas are so packed that people end up sleeping next to each other on the ground.

The indigenous are in full view in San Cristobal and your primary contact with them will be to decline to buy their handiwork or donate to their petitions a hundred times a day. For them, you’re a strange white alien who probably doesn’t speak Spanish, never mind their dialect.

San Cristobal is another of Mexico’s bohemian getaways and many artisans from all over come to scratch out a living here in the market. This is a good place to hook up with musicians and amber freaks. It’s a very small scene though and might get a little claustrophobic after a while.