Heading for the border from Chiapa de Corzo you first head east before turning south on the outskirts of San Cristobal de las Casas. The ride south takes you through pine forests and pleasant villages like the one above that are relatively unspoiled compared to San Cristobal's mock revolutionary zeal.

We had chosen Comitan as our last stopover in Mexico, not for any particular information we had about it, but more for its proximity to the border. It was close enough that if we headed out early we would have more than ample time to clear any possible problems at the crossing and still make it on to Huehuetenango before it got dark. We also had to consider that we would be arriving in Guatemala on Christmas Eve. Comitan is best described as on of those pleasant surpises; a happy accident that was completely unexpected. It was not simply the beauty of the place as much as it was the a unmistakable good spirit of its people. From every little interaction we were made to feel genuinely welcome.

The lobby of the little posada where we stayed was decked out for Christmas. Something here might strike you as unusual had you not already discussed the subject of Christmas. When I first began coming to Mexico, other than religious celebrations, there was no real celebration of Christmas. The big holiday was in early January for Reyes Magos, the Three Kings Day. This was the day on which small gifts were exchanged and families gathered. I asked a mother and daughter about this in Pátzcuaro, and they told me that Santa Claus and Christmas trees, and all the other things in our Christmas lexicon, had all entered their culture, not just as a result of TV, but specifically as a result of Coca Cola comercials. You will note the polar bear in the lobby. This is something that is purely the creation of seasonal Coke commercials that doesn't really appear in our holiday decor, but is very much present everywhere in Mexico as a Christmas symbol.

Also a pleasant surprise in Comitan's plaza was the permanent display of modern art and the blending of elements in its construction. At left is a weighty bronze, and on the right a totem like depiction of what seemed like a womb carved from the rooted trunk of a dead tree. Below is a work in stainless steel. This is the only place that I have encountered in Mexico where Modern Art plays such an important role in the town's traditional center.

Adjacent to the plaza was an art museum in this beautifully restored building that stretch around its porticos on two sides and in the interior. Interestingly, it was probably the only gallery anywhere that I have encountered where we were actually encouraged to take pictures by the staff.

The inner courtyard was as beautiful for its restoration as it was for its expansive murals.

Finally the pìece de résistance was the skating rink that was constructed in one corner of the square. An amused spectator told us it was the first time ever in this village, and it was absolutely hilarious. Other than the the few people who had come to erect and maintain the rink, nobody had ever seen ice for skating. Everyone was trying desperately to propel themselves around the edge by holding on to the rail or each other. The only thing that I have seen that compared to it was at a newly constructed mall in Agra India. Several Muslim women in full berkhas were trying to navigate an escalator. Their feet would hover tentatively above the steps hoping they could time one to get on, while their braver husbands stood on the floor above laughing and coaxing them on.