It was so cold that I had to buy some socks, gloves and a handmade wool shawl. I should have known better and been more prepared. Lesson well learned for the next trip. There is no heat in the hotels and restaurants. Some restaurants have the gas heater stands. We tried to find any restaurant that had heaters or had tables inside. That was our first consideration, second was the food.
Our first stop was to the Mayan Medicine Museum. We hiked many blocks, which brought us to the outskirts of the city centre to what looked like homes or settlement of the “city indigenous” people. It was very different from the downtown core of San Cristobal.
The main objective of the Museo de Medicina May is to preserve a traditional and botanical knowledge of Tzoltzil and Tzeltal healing practices that spans centuries. Inside the compound is the museum, botanical garden, pharmacy with herbs from the garden and a center to treat patients. Fascinating place. I love being able to see how other cultures live and have lived for centuries. They had displays of a candle maker, people praying to their gods and a woman giving birth with her husband and midwife.
|Mayan woman giving birth with help from her husband and|
Next on our walk, was Casa Na-Bolom. According to Wikipedia, Casa Na-Bolom was the home of archeologist Frans Blom and his wife, Gertrude Duby Blom, the documentary photographer, journalist, environmental pioneer, and jungle adventurer. The name “Casa Na Bolom” comes from the Mayan word for jaguar, “bolom.” The Bloms chose this name as a play on their own name, Blom. In the jungle, Frans Blom was often known by the nickname, Pancho Bolom, a great compliment comparing him favourably to the sacred jaguar.
In 1950, the Bloms purchased a monastery in ruin on the outskirts of San Cristobal de las Casas. Frans Blom’s dream was that Casa Na Bolom would function as a cultural, social, and academic center. In order to raise funds for their jungle expeditions, they took in guests who dined at the great long table in the dining room. These guests included tourists, local residents, and archeologists working in the area. Casa Na Bolom evolved into a small hotel, attracting guests as notable as Henry Kissinger and Diego Rivera. However, free rooms were always kept open for the Lacandon Maya who came to San Cristobal for medical reasons. The Lacandon Maya were the only Maya never conquered or converted by the Spanish. Trudi Blom became an environmental activist, gravely concerned about the destruction of the jungle she loved. She expanded Casa Na Bolom to include El Vivero, a tree nursery, which today still supplies free trees for reforestation in Chiapas. Na Bolom is still open to the public as a museum, hotel, and restaurant. Volunteers continue to run the house and maintain their work in various community projects in the jungle. Today, guests still come and conversation still flows in many languages at the long table of Casa Na Bolom. Mayan Indians sell their tapestries in the shaded patio. The garden pathways are lined with the mescal bottles Trudi blamed for Frans’ death. The Lacandon still come to stay.
|Chapel where a local pianist gives performances three times a week|
|the sacred jaguar|
Next stop on our walk was what I waited for with baited breath all day – the Chocolate Museum! I was in heaven. Upstairs is the museum with fascinating history of the kakaw or cocoa. You could even make your own chocolate bar if you booked ahead of time. That part I had missed – darn.
Downstairs is the store and dining area where you can purchase a huge assortment of chocolate products and try some of their famous hot or cold chocolate. I chose a four sampler with Achiote, Amaranth, peanut and vanilla. Words will not suffice as to how scrumptious it was.
|This is the “cup” for the chocolate|
|My four samples – delicious|
Besides all the one-way streets in San Cristobal, three streets are for pedestrians only. There you will find wonderful restaurants. After a sumptuous dinner, we started back towards our hotel when we were drawn to the sound coming from the bandstand in the plaza. If there was a state musical instrument, then in Chiapas that would be the xylophone or marimba. The marimba is a type of xylophone but with broader and lower tonal range and resonators. The chromatic marimba was developed in the state of Chiapas. The sound was infectious and we had to look. While my husband was videotaping, I was swaying to beat and before I knew it, I was dancing with a young woman, Aluce who is from Honduras. Enjoy the video clip.