Neil and I have been meaning to hit this touristy spot since we came to San Cristobal in May, and we finally made the voyage. They canyon was only made accessible in the 1970s when a dam flooded the Grajalva river and made it passable by boat. At the highest point the canyon walls are 1 km high. Local legend has it that a group of Mayans came here to commit suicide rather than submit to Spanish rule.
The ride was pretty exhilarating. Mexico has a refreshing & terrifying lack of safety standards. The boat was loaded with 30 people, and the guide took liberties with speed you may expect from an Indy 500 racer.
The animal life are not hindered by the frequent speedy tourist boats passing by. We saw many crocs, pelicans & other birds, monkeys etc.
Later that night we were commandeered by Dr. Clark (Neil’s archaeologist boss) and an old friend of his Tom Lee, an X pat who has lived here in Mexico for 40 years. They got out a 50′s film projector and we all watched a few film reels together. One of them, as it turns out, was of an expedition group from the US who voyaged the Canyon before the dam was put in. Tom Lee was one of the men on the trip. The rapids used to be so dangerous that they had to drag the several-ton boats through the jungle to avoid many of them. The footage was pretty impressive.
The trip was my perfect nature trip. No personal exertion, animals pointed out to you by a guide danger-free, and plenty of photo opps.
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico has a long history of political graffiti. In 1994 the Zapatista Army of National Liberation used San Cristobal as a starting city for their revolution. From the jungle they released their six “Declarations of the Lacandon Jungle” calling Mexicans to take up arms against the government, then peaceful civic protests, and eventually to do anything by any means (The Third Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle). 10 years later all that is left is a large military presence (much smaller than a few years ago), political graffiti on every wall, and Zapatista dolls, shirts, and trinkets for sale to tourists. The Zapatistas, as some have recollected, used their graffiti to spread their message of dissent. Since then San Cristobal has never seen a clean wall.
After lunch at a friends house in town whose outside walls are covered in grafitti and peeling, he told me “I should paint my walls, I haven’t in years, but what is the point they will just get graffitied as soon as I’m done.”
An account of a Free Trade protest during San Cristobal’s celebrations of Mexican Independence in 2006 said “As the demonstration passes down the street, a few of the youths lag behind, ski masks covering their faces, and spray paint a trail of political graffiti. Once they are done it reads, “No to the Free Trade Agreement,” on every wall.”
Today, I am told, poor Mexicans living in outlying villages come into San Cristobal to protest their poverty and lack of government assistance by spray painting walls. The two major types of graffiti in town are stenciled graffiti and political slogans or symbols done in free hand. The stenciled graffiti seems to be less political and more art. As you can see from my photos of stenciled graffiti most are pop culture icons, animals, or Japanese cartoons. Those that are political are about Bush or the Iraq War. At least on the surface I fail to see how these stenciled images are more than art, teenage rebellion, or pop hatred against American politics. Yet there seems to be something deeper. Something this Spanishless gringo will never find out.
I guess there are about 40+ types of yoga and after two months of searching Kate and I finally found 1 yoga shop that does 1 type of yoga. Hatha Yoga is, according to the above linked site, “The discipline of the force exercised by asanas (poses), the physiological activity and pranayama, the breath control.” Unfortunately I know little more about yoga then it makes me feel good when I do it, and so I don’t know if Hatha type is different from the yoga we did in Utah. All names aside, and this is my point, the yoga was very different: it was in Spanish (duh), we did violent leg flopping for warm up which about killed the old man in the class with bad knees (a first for me), we only held three poses one of which I recognized, she made us get energy form the stars, and we ended by kneeling (for me the most painful posture of all) and stare at a candle for 5 full minutes. Although nice to stretch and breath again, the instructor was not very helpful in correcting postures or breathing, the routine was strange, and in the end my back hurt so from now on I think I will just do yoga with a video (any recommendations?).
Afterward for dinner we made, what turned out to be a delightful pizza, and then watched the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, TMNT, which turned out to be not so delightful. Mostly because it was a pirated copy filmed in the movie theater so the sound quality was bad including 10 minutes without sound, the footage dark, and for some reason our tv doesn’t handle crappy dvds very well and spits static across the screen. I didn’t have high hopes for the movie or anything like that, it was just such a chore to watch I was almost manically depressed by the end.
So that’s my amazing yesterday. Crappy yoga and a movie.
As I am sure you have not heard, another earthquake hit Mesoamerica and once again we found ourselves caught in the backlash. This time we were in the middle of watching “Ocean’s 13″ of as they called it in Mexico, “Now There Are 13,” when the screen started to bounce up and down and the chairs started to shake . We dashed for an exit but it had stopped by the time we got outside. After 10 minutes of confusion the cinema staff let us back in and on we went with the film. The funny thing is in the movie they are try and create a false earthquake to scare people out of a hotel and it is was about this far into the plot that the real earthquake hit. If these things get any more regular we might start waring hard hats anytime we’re inside.
Here is a copy from the USGS website taken about an hour after the quake, it was a 6.1.
Map Centered at 15°N, 95°W
2:30, Kate and I were watching an episode of Lost during our siesta when I started to feel the bed shake. I asked Kate is she felt it too. She thought it was just me paying a trick until I pointed out the swinging curtains, Kate’s purse, and everything else hagging on the walls. We got out of the house just in case something bad was coming on but nothing else did. Turns out there was a major earthquake int he ocean outside Guatemala and we were just ridding the waves. Read more about it at www.kateandneil.com
At 2:30 Mexico standard time (Central), while Kate and I were in a deep lost induced trans I started to feel the bed shake (we don’t have a couch). I asked Kate if she felt the shaking because I was scared my body was just doing it in response to this morning’s workout (more to come on that). She just thought I was playing a trick until I pointed out that everything on the walls including the curtains were rocking back and forth. We jumped out of the bed, turned off the TV, and moved outside in case things got worse. They didn’t. No one else in the complex mentioned anything so I was begging to doubt anything had happened until I checked my email a few hours later and a friend asked me if I was affected by the earthquake. A quick search on the Google, CNN, and the USGS site revealed that a 6.8 earthquake struck 70 miles outside Guatemala City in the Pacific Ocean. According to news feeds many people were shaken up but serous damage and causalities have yet to be reported, but we won’t be able to see the full extent of the damage until communication lines are fixed.
Well just in case anyone was worried, we are safe, San Cristobal was not affected, and Kate now knows I don’t have a sense of humor.
I was going to add a map and some links but once again the linking software is not working. Alas you will just have to search for more information yourself.
1st, Find a simple recipe requiring few ingredients and little or no seasoning (if all else fails substitute oregano for thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, coriander, and Italian seasoning).
2nd, Search all 5 major shopping centers for mozzarella cheese, only to find small blocks of expensive US imports.
3rd, Scout a substitute for ricotta, namely cottage cheese, only to find it in giant refrigerated vats alongside whole cream, yogurt, and tapioca.
4th, Buy spinach that looks more like a desert succulent than a leafy vegetable (I’m still not convinced).
5th, Try and find lasagna noodles, and when you do be prepared to cook them for roughly 1,240 minutes until they reach the consistency of coagulated Elmer’s Glue.
6th, Combine all ingredients into a borrowed glass pan.
7th, Bake at the estimated C° temperature acuired through a website conversion chart, remove from oven, ask a blessing or protection from assumed harmful effects, and finally eat.
Turns out its about the best lasagna Kate and I have had in Latin America, even better than the Madre Tierra’s (the touristy restaurant we ate at last night) lasagna special.
While Barbara never made it to hurricane status, we still have felt its affects. It has been raining in San Cristobal for a week and yesterday when whats left of the storm hit, we had rain and hail for hours. There is nothing like the sound of rain and hail on a tin roof and thunder to help you focus on your work project. Actually, I have really enjoyed the rain and lightning, reminds me of storms back in Kenya. The only downside is the neighborhood doesn’t drain very well, so we basically have to boat out of the compound.
Tropical Storm Barbara was supposed to be the first of the hurricanes this season, but before it hit the Mexico -Guatemala border it shrunk to small storm status. Lets just say if what hit us yesterday was just a small storm I can’t imagine what would happen if a hurricane or its remnants hit San Cristobal. Well they say “9 Hurricanes Expected in Revised Forecast” so we’ll see what happens.
A few shots from the storm
During the rainy season San Cristobal is notorious for power outages. I guess all the exposed wires from the do-it-yourself wiring that seems to plague most buildings, tripping breakers or blowing transformers when they get wet. So last night our neighborhood lost power. After talking in the dark for 30 minutes Kate and I decided to make dinner; we have a gas stove. Unfortunately we didn’t have any matches, and the electric starter obviously didn’t work.
Luckily most Mexican neighborhoods have little tiendas (shops) built into a house. So I was sent on the errand to run out in the rain to the closest tienda (about 10 feet outside the compound door) to buy some matches. By the time I got outside the rain has subdued a bit and I worked my way to the tienda taking refuge under a giant vine roof that hangs over our wall. I fished out my peso and traded it for a box of matches. Everything had gone as planned and I was even managing to remain a little dry. I ran back to the house fishing in my pocket for my keys, only to find I had forgotten them. Usually this wouldn’t be so bad because someone else in the compound could let me in, but it was late at night and the only person left was Kate, and she was in our apartment which is in the back of the compound.
By then the power had come back on, of course, and I could stop throwing rocks against the side of the apartment to get Kate’s attention, and try using the electric bell. Turns out Kate heard the rocks and the bell but didn’t think it was me. Anyway after ringing for 15 minutes or so I had a brilliant idea. Across the street was a little group of children helping their father make cement while the rain had stopped, and so I conscripted their help. In the back of the compound a little hole can be opened in the fence and I sent one of the littlest ones in to get Kate. A few minutes later Kate came out the front door with the little kid. As a reward I had promised them each a treat from the shop, and while only one did anything the rest of his gang demanded tribute. So what started as a 1 peso shopping trip tuned into 26 pesos after I had purchased chips for all the neighborhood kids. And the funny thing is Kate didn’t even notice I was gone. When the power came on she just started cooking away trying to decide what all the strange noises had been.
For dinner tonight Kate and I made focaccia bread and stuffed it with grilled summer veggies. I was worried San Cristobal’s high elevation would affect the quality of the focaccia but it turned out nearly perfect. I added too much oregano to the recipe because it’s the only spice we have and so I substituted it for thyme, rosemary, and basil. Also we bought the oregano from a street vendor and lets just say it is hanky raw. I was pulling twigs or stems if oregano 1/2 and inch long out of the bread. Ether way it was awesome. So if your dying for something light and tasty on a hot summer day I recommend grilled veggies on some homemade focaccia.
Oh down this far south we basically have summer veggies year round, hence the title.