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Hound Dog

Sep 28, 2009, 11:48 AM

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Re: [TIO GREENGLEE] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Although the indigenous do not like their picture taken (do not take pictures in the church in San Juan Chamula or they will take your camera), taking a picture of the scenery is no problem.

In my opinion, this is misleading to say the least. Just ask a friend of ours who took a camera out in Chamula with the intent of taking pictures of the surrounding scenery only to be accosted by irate villagers who confiscated her chip and threatened her with incarceration. It was unpleasant and nasty. We don´t even take cameras to Chamula anymore. Tio is right about one thing, however, Chamula is a tourist trap but so is Paris and the reason places such as that are tourist traps is because tourists love them and, in the case of Chamula, the village is easily accessable from San Cristóbal. The church services are quite fascinating so go to Chamula on Sundays for an interesting take on services that reflect the catholic and pagan roots of these institutions.

The reason Chamulas and other indigenous people don´t like having their pictures taken is that they have been exploited and been treated like monkeys in a zoo for a very long time. One day they figured out that these visitors taking their photographs were often making money in the process and they, not being even remotely stupid, wanted their cut. Just remember whether you are in Chamula or one of countless other indigenous municipalities, that you are their guest and treat local people with the respect they deserve and as you would expect them to act when visiting your home. After all, taking people´s pictures without their permission is considered rude in many places. I was in van full of tourists in an open air market in Nairobi in 1969 when we were all nearly lynched when one woman took one picture of the local crowd without permision. I have visited cathedrals and other religious structures all over the world and was appalled both at Notre Dame in Paris and the Chamula church by the rude and disrespectul attitudes of tourists overwhelming services with their churlish behavior.

... the urban legends about the zapatistas being a problem everywhere in Chiapas are way overstated.

What one cannot know until one lives in the Chiapas Highlands around San Cristóbal is that most news is still delivered on morning radio programs as in the old town cryer days. Much really negative news is either ignored or lightly covered. We don´t really know much about the area Tio lives in so do not presume to discuss that area at this time. I am not suggesting that the reader be fearful in the part of Chiapas with which we are familiar but the visitor should always exercise caution. Of course, we were so fearful of the area that we completely remodeled a home in the El Cerrillo Barrio near the massive indigenous market and the Santo Domingo Convent from the ground up and would probably live there all year round if the real estate market at Lake Chapala were not in the doldrums.

I can tell you this, machismo and violence are commonplace in that part of Chiapas in which we live much of it involving internecine warfare often involving land issues among indigenous groups, violence of locals against illegal immigrants from Central America, intra- family violence very often related to drunkeness and assaults against spouses and children and then, of course the drug wars which are constant. If you are not from the area you may never know this violence is going on unless you are unfortunate enough to stmble upon it. I remember when we were at the weekly open air market one day while visiting the town of Palenque when a shootout started between the army and rival narcs. Now, that was scary but that hasn´t stopped us from repeatedly driving from San Cristóbal to Palenque both through Ocosingo and though the Lacandon Forest via the beautiful Lagos de Montebello National Park astride the border with Guatamela. This Chiapas is a fabulous place worthy of visiting and it is a very large and varied landscape. We´ve lived in Mexico since early 2001 and bought our home in San Cristóbal in 2005 after exploring and rejecting such places as Merida and Oaxaca City for a couple of years and we still have seen on a fraction of this beautiful state which is a challenge to cover. Next we are off to Tapachula and the Soconusco and we can´t wait.

in San Cristobal (I go there often to escape from Tuxtla Gutierrez which is a hot and dirty hell hole whose only attractions are a great zoo, WallMart, Sam's Club, Dominoes and Home Depot

Once again, a misleading statement in my judgment. Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state´s capital, can be a beautifully scenic place with great tropical ambience and has a number of very good restaurants and nightclubs for the visitor. The city is large and relatively prosperous and on its outskirts lie the wide and attractive Grijalva River, the striking Sumidero Canyon and the charming small city of Chiapa de Corzo which should be a must see for anyone visiting the region. As for the attractions touted by Tio, I don´t particularly like the concept of zoos even when they are relatively humane in the treatment of their captive animals and I must also admit I do not care for WalMart, Sam´s Club, Dominoes (for God´s sake) or Home Depot so the reader will need to make his or her own decision as to whether or not these are the primary attractions in any city. The city does have some great shopping opportunities in beautiful malls and neighborhood shopping areas and one can find just about anything one needs without ever entering a WalMart.

We are living at present at Lake Chapala where we spend our summers but when we return to Chiapas this winter, I will present a small critique of really interesting things to see and do in Metropolitan Tuxtla which will include some not-to-be-missed fine restaurants and great taco joints all featuring the cuisine of Chiapas which can be excellent, my favorite marimba park with free marimba orchestra concerts on weekends surrounded by beer joints, restaurants and ice cream parlors, the best truly upscale shopping mall in Tuxtla anchored by fine retail outlets and department stores without a WalMart or Sam´s Club in sight and other attractions and urban amenities of this fun tropical city which is much underrated by people who occasionally head for the hills to cool off. By the way, that shows that everything is perspective. We drive down to Tuxtla Gutierrez or, even better, Chiapa de Corzo and enjoy fine dining to warm up when San Cristóbal is too cold to suit us. The only reason I don´t provide my list now is that I am not a good note taker so need to revisit the city to refresh my memory regarding names and menu items.

Finally, I don´t want my comments to be considered a criticizm of Tio´s comments. I´m just giving my opinions of some areas he covered. After all, a forum should offer a meaningful discussion on topics often where there is disagreement. In fact, I admire him for moving to this state I love and would love to visit his part of the region as well. Thanks to Tio for his comments.

(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Sep 28, 2009, 12:14 PM)

Edit Log:
Post edited by Hound Dog (Veteran) on Sep 28, 2009, 11:54 AM
Post edited by Hound Dog (Veteran) on Sep 28, 2009, 12:01 PM
Post edited by Hound Dog (Veteran) on Sep 28, 2009, 12:07 PM
Post edited by Hound Dog (Veteran) on Sep 28, 2009, 12:14 PM

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