I didn’t have any place to be for a while so I spent 3 days in San Cristobal de las Casas. I could have stayed longer as the city and surrounding area have plenty to offer and the family I stayed with was awesome.
Located in a valley high in the mountains of Chiapas, San Cristobal is small but has an endless number of roads each with something to explore. I got in at night and after putting my stuff away I went out to the centro with Kevin, my host and fellow lover of ska music. It was his birthday so we went out for drinks.
Theres no shortage of restaurants, bars, and cafés in centro San Cristobal.
A popular place is Café Bar Revolución. With live music most nights and free bowls of popcorn, it’s a great spot.
The main part of the centro has been turned into pedestrian streets and every storefront painted to match the Spanish colonial style the city was built in. Kevin offered to show me around and explained the history of the city, the area, and culture. We walked around and tried all the best things. Local chocolate, local coffee, cookies, the local alcohol drink Pox, teas, just about everything.
I stayed with Kevin and his family for 4 days. My last day there was right before Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which in Mexico is an important day. I didn’t know much about the day or the traditions. Kevin and his mom, Lucy, invited me to the market with them and they explained everything.
Markets here are usually busy but on the day before November 1st it’s especially busy. We walked around to different areas buying fruit, flowers, and other things for the altar. In Mexico the tradition is that each family builds an altar for someone in their family who has passed away.
After buying all the things from the market that they needed, we went back to their house and they started putting it together. The belief is that the spirit of their departed loved ones visit beginning on the 31st of the October and depart on the 2nd of November. The altars stay up for those days. Watching Lucy put together the arrangement, I wondered who their altar was in memory of. Kevin told me that for the past 2 years his family honored the memory of his older brother who was killed in a car accident.
That night Kevin’s father, Arturo, put on some of his old classic rock vinyl records and he talked about what he thought was important in life.
As Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd spun on the turntable, Arturo said over and over you have to have peace in life. The only things that matter are the people in your life. Your family and friends. Coincidentally Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” was playing and I just thought I wish some friends and family could be here to experience some of this.
As the night went on I helped make a traditional dessert of candied pumpkin. We cut up a pumpkin into small chunks, then put in a ton of sugar and threw it on the stove. Lucy probably added other things.
I cooked dinner that night for everyone and after Arturo insisted “no hamburgers” I made a baked pasta dish with the ingredients I could find. Instead of Italian sausage I used chorizzo and it was surprisingly really tasty.
Everyday I was there we ate three meals at the table together. While I couldn’t understand everything they said Kevin was nice enough to translate. Arturo reminded me everyday that I need to learn Spanish. It’s amazing how I can be welcomed into a family’s home and treated as I’ve been a friend for years. It’s kindness like this and of all the people I’ve met during my time in Mexico that I wish everyone who thinks Mexico is a dangerous place filled with bad people could experience.