Every traveler looking for mouth-watering food experiences knows that Mexico is the place to go. More than that, Mexico is also the best destination to experience arts! Are you interested in indigenous as well as contemporary music, arts, handicrafts, and literature?
Then you must visit San Cristóbal de las Casas, el pueblo mágico! Get overwhelmed by the diverse tastes of the local cuisine, meet the open-minded villagers, and admire the sheer beauty of this magical place…
Historic facts about San Cristóbal de las Casas
Before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, the current valley of San Cristóbal was known as Hueyzacatlán, which in the Uto-Aztecan language Nahuatl means “next to the big grass”.
In the year 1529, the Aztecan city was conquered by Diego Mazariegos, who turned Hueyzacatlán into Villa Real de Chiapas.
A hundred years later, Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, a priest of the order of Santo Domingo arrived. He began to build convents and strengthened the religious communities in the region. Fray was also one of the first to criticize the atrocities committed by the colonizers against the indigenous peoples in Mexico.
In 1821 the Creole Dominican Fray Matías de Córdoba, peacefully promulgated independence. Shortly afterward the state of Chiapas was annexed to the Mexican Republic. As a consequence, the city’s name was changed to Ciudad de San Cristóbal.
During this time, the neoclassical city planner and engineer Carlos Z. Flores modernized San Cristóbal. The architect remodeled some monuments and dressed the streets with Doric gates. He designed Tuscan windows and planted the parks with gardens and kiosks. This unique style makes the city one of the most astonishing colonial towns in Chiapas.
The year 1994 and the Zapatistas taking over San Cristóbal de las Casas
Another historic moment every visitor of San Cristóbal will cross paths with is 1994. That year, the movement of the Zapatista de Liberación Nacional tried to occupy the city with an armed takeover. After two weeks of fights for the city between the Zapatistas and the Mexican military, the Zapatistas had to flee into the surrounding jungles.
This is also where many Zapatista communities still live nowadays. What makes them unique is their system of governance, education, and economics, and that they are denying the Mexican state to have control over them.
Visiting San Cristobal you won’t help but notice the strong political connections the population of the city has with Emiliano Zapata. The movement’s symbols are depicted extensively on murals on walls, on people’s clothes, and the local art scene thematizes this historic incident as well. In fact, in the whole of Chiapas, you will encounter plenty of people in favor of the politics of the Zapatistas.
Migration and tourism bringing growth to the local art scene
Since then, San Cristóbal has attracted many Mexicans and internationals to visit the charming city in the mountains of Chiapas. As a result, San Cristóbal is part of the creative cities network.
Pueblo mágico is what people call it nowadays. With all the vibrant crowds spending their time in the colonial town, many of them have influenced the local cultural scene. The city has hundreds of art galleries and art shops, important museums, and music bars. Citywide street artists perform day and night, making the city into an excitingly lively place.
The high proportion of indigenous peoples make a significant contribution to the thriving sector of crafts and folk art. Walking through the tiny streets you can find hundreds of markets. Observe blacksmithing, pottery, woodcarving, amber jewelry making, and embroidery.
If you have time to come in April, find the most popular cultural event: the Spring Fair and Peace, which has taken place for more than a century. The fair celebrates the start of spring and involves all the artists within the city.
Interested in learning more about the indigenous communities and their catholic-religious practices? Do not miss out on discovering the village of San Juan Chamula! Its residents practice a fascinating syncretic religion. As many in many colonized places, Mayan rituals became blended with a devotion to Catholic saints, which is unique and worth visiting.
To get started, I recommend joining the Free Walking Tour.
Find unraveled, mouthwatering Mexican cuisine
San Cristóbal de las Casas is not just the perfect place to discover art, music, and cultural life. It is also an amazing destination for food lovers and the coffee addicted among us.
However, the reason why everyone loves Mexican food culture is the food markets and street food vendors!
Mexican street food magically plays with our taste buds, combining spicy and sweet, sour and fruity, meaty and healthy. Ingredients such as fresh lime, green cilantro, and spicy peppers are a must to any Mexican dish!
The same goes for drinks: Mexico is the birthplace of Mezcal, a liquor made from agave trees. How about a tour, discovering the hundreds of different Mezcal sellers in the city?
San Cristóbal’s surrounding nature is worth a visit!
Did you know that Chiapas is home to the highest Canyon in Mexico? By visiting the Sumidero Canyon, take a boat trip and watch the birds, eagles, monkeys in their natural habitat. Or instead, do a hike or tour through the immense natural park surrounding the tops of the large Canyon.
If you are more into the jungle, there are wild destinations all around the city. Whether you visit the tiny villages in the mountains or dive into the jungle with a tour operator. Alternatively, simply take a day trip to one of the surrounding lakes and get a refreshing swim. I promise you, each excursion is worth the visit.
After all, San Cristóbal de las Casas is one of these places that just sticks to the memory. It is beautiful, lively, artsy, and attracts young and open-minded crowds!
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