Carnaval in Ocozocuatla

Carnaval in Ocozocuatla

What an outrageous celebration! A gluttonous procession of color, creativity, and good cheer. And perhaps the best of all, the citizens of Ocozocuatla welcome strangers with broad gestures: Come in and dance with us! Wait a minute, let me pose for a photo! Don’t like talcum powder all over you, don’t worry, I’ll keep it in the bag…Bienvenidos! The costumes are glorious and imaginative. Every headdress is festooned with brilliant tissue paper or crepe paper flowers and steamers. Necklaces are strung with small Chicklets boxes, candy, peanuts, whatever can be...
La Ruta Maya

La Ruta Maya

San Cristóbal de Las Casas is strategically located within the magical land of the Maya. Day trips and longer adventures farther East and into the jungles of Chiapas bring travelers closer to understanding and appreciating the rich past and present cultures of the Maya. The end-of-the-world prophesies have made La Ruta Maya (or The Mayan Route) a popular topic. For this reason, in November 2011 Lonely Planet named The Mayan Route as the second of ten top regions of the world to visit in 2012.  But even before the prophesies made the headlines, people were...
Fiestas in San Juan Chamula

Fiestas in San Juan Chamula

Wild west cowboy hats, knee length tunics of white or black lamb’s wool, and hands inside tunics at chest height all distinguish the Tzotzil community of San Juan Chamula from its neighbor Zinacantan in the valley next door. I call it a cowboy town, a bit rough and ready for action.   The church in the center of town is what draws most visitors to Chamula. It’s here that Maya beliefs and traditions prevail over Christian practices. Statues of Catholic saints clothed in layers of heavily embroidered Maya textiles carry mirrors around their necks. Some say...
Circle Tour Through Chiapas

Circle Tour Through Chiapas

Road Trip! We did the circle tour of Chiapas in a speed limit-breaking three days. From San Cristóbal de Las Casas to Palenque, south to Guacamayas, west to El Chiflon, and back up to San Cristóbal de Las Casas. We probably should have taken five or more days to fully enjoy the rich Maya history and natural wonders of the area. There are so many opportunities for adventure and eco-travel along the beaten and un-beaten paths. But if you have only three days, it’s a beautiful trip that will bring you back another time to San Cristóbal and La Joya Hotel to explore...
The Faces of Copoya

The Faces of Copoya

Copoya is a small town just south of Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas, and about an hour from La Joya Hotel San Cristóbal. Eventually the sprawl of Tuxtla will devour it, but for now it retains its identity in its traditions. On the Sunday before Lent, Copoya celebrates Carnival as it has always done, with a queen, “bull fighters,” gigantes, school kids, a few floats, a casual band, and women dressed in traditional costumes.   When I looked at the photos from our morning in Copoya, I was intrigued by the faces, young and old, masked, and painted. There’s a...
Las Posadas

Las Posadas

“Chocolate” is the most popular character in the posada that takes place in barrio El Cerillo, San Cristóbal de Las Casas. No wonder. He’s a furry grey, petite, well mannered, ever so patient burro who carries Mary around the barrio while Joseph searches for a place to stay. Every afternoon around 4:45 between December 16 and 24, Chocolate makes his appearance. The children crowd around the doors of the church courtyard and wait for him, the star performer.   Mary in her cowboy hat and Joseph in his beard then lead the procession along with...
Los Tigres de Suchiapa

Los Tigres de Suchiapa

Suchiapa is mentioned in only a few guide books, yet it has one of the most intriguing festivals in Chiapas with a week of parades and mini-dramas.   This is the celebration of the equinox that begins on the Sunday before the Thursday of Corpus Cristi, 60 days after Easter. Parades from the various barrios make their way to the center of town. Leading each parade are the tigres, or jaguars. They stand tall in bright yellow and black-spotted suits. Then comes the “giant,” with carved and painted snake’s head and long feathered poles. Some say the tigres represent...
Parachicos of Chiapa de Corzo

Parachicos of Chiapa de Corzo

There’s obviously a fiesta going on in Chiapa de Corzo. The booths and rides are set up, although not attended since it’s the middle of the day. Tonight, however, there will be revelry and flashing lights. Chiapa de Corzo is the oldest town in Chiapas, founded in the 1500’s by the Spanish and deserted later when the heat drove them farther into the hills where they founded what is now called San Cristóbal de Las Casas. It’s a beautiful town with a lovely center square. Like most towns, Chiapa de Corzo celebrates the feast of their patron...
San Cristóbal – Pueblo Mágico

San Cristóbal – Pueblo Mágico

The first question people invariably ask expatriates is, “So, why did you decide to move to San Cristóbal?” And the typical answer is, “We just fell in love with it.” Our first glimpse of San Cristóbal de Las Casas was a small black and white photo in the Lonely Planet Guide to Mexico. Not a glamorous shot, but we thought it looked a bit like Boulder, Colorado…mountains in the background, pine trees, narrow streets. Since we had lived in Denver and had spent time in Boulder, we were enamored with the idea of green hills and...
The Crocs of Sumidero Canyon

The Crocs of Sumidero Canyon

Birds and Monkeys and Crocs, Oh My! Having spent three years in Suriname where I took long rides up and down beautiful jungle rivers in 10-person dugout canoes, I thought that the river trip through Sumidero Canyon would be rather ho-hum.  Not so! This is a must adventure… Massive cliffs rise 100-1,000 meters, made more dramatic by the twists and turns and narrow passageways.  The canyon lies on a geological fault line that 35 million years ago experienced one or more earthquakes  causing this massive fissure.  Earthquakes plus eons of water erosion have carved...
The Ruins of Tonina

The Ruins of Tonina

The ruins of Tonina lie approximately two hours from La Joya Hotel San Cristóbal, at the end of a beautiful drive through hills and pastures. Tonina offers a unique opportunity to explore Maya history quietly, and often alone, without throngs of tourists and souvenir vendors. Because the original buildings were constructed with small rocks that climb a steep hill, the ruins are not considered a true pyramid but a series of seven terraces. These terraces rise 71 meters and face south to views of rich farmlands and distant mountains. Most of Tonina’s structures...
The Flowers of Zinacantan

The Flowers of Zinacantan

San Lorenzo Zinacantan lies below the high road that sweeps down into the valley. When I first saw the tops of the long white greenhouses, I wondered where the flowers traveled to from this little place in the clouds. Now I know that flowers under plastic just begin to describe the role that nature plays in the life of this Tzotzil community, only thirty minutes from La Joya Hotel in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. The people of Zinacantan embrace their passion for flowers in their clothing and in their churches and cemeteries. Walking in the town during a fiesta is...