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