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Cities San Cristóbal de las Casas (Chiapas)

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Here, you got to go. A centre of new age revolutionaries and fans of Zapatism. In 1994 armed members of Indian guerilla EZLN came down the surrounding hills and took San Cristóbal together with other important centers of power. This is where from the only white man within EZLN, the Subcomandante Marcos, negotiated with Mexican government. Since then T-shirts with Marcos, coffee cups with Marcos or small figures of Marcos are sold here. And even though Zapatism is not so much in anymore, “Marcos” keeps selling. In San Cristóbal, you can find bars that only borrowed red stars or real places, where many Indian rights activists keep coming.
 
But do not worry. San Cristóbal is not only for revolutionaries. The air is fresh and crispy and when the morning fog settles down from the hills and crawls among the colonial houses, churches and cathedrals, you´ ll stop breathing. The accommodation varies from very nice hotels to cheap hostels and you can also find long term rentals. Unfortunately, it is becoming a very touristy place. Child beggars are everyday reality. To give or not to give? If you decide to give, you are the proof that begging works. If you decide not to give and the child comes home without money, in some cases might get beaten by his own parents. There is no smart solution, the choice is yours.
What here:
Well, seems like studying Zapatism is a favorite activity around here. Indian rights, female rights, abused children. Try a nice restaurant and a culture centre called Tierradentro (Street Real de Guadalupe). Or have a breakfast in one of the best food markets I have to known (Mercado Municipal). One block from here in front of the beautiful “Templo de Santo Domingo” is another market with local arts (and many T-shirts with Che Guevara or Marcos). And if you are up to it make an interesting trip to one of the surrounding Indian villages:
 
San Juan Chamula: Now, Chamula is not exactly a friendly village. Still it´s church “ El Templo de San Juan” is a unique experience. First you have to buy tickets in a small office on the main square (15 pesos). Once inside taking pictures is strongly prohibited. This is what you will see. People praying on the church floor, surrounded by hundreds of candles and if you are lucky maybe some cutting chicken´s throats. The prayers keep drinking lots of bubbly sodas and hoping they will burp. They believe when burping the bad spirits leave their body. The sides of the church are decorated with little mirrors and many different deities. It is said that inside one of the frames, as decoration, there is also a bottle of coca-cola…well, I haven´t seen it. How to get here: Some travel agencies organize trips from San Cristóbal or you can get your own transport, the “combis” leave from north of San Cristóbal, street Honduras.
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Zinacantán: Similar to Chamula, more friendly, less famous. Its church “Inglesia de San Lorenzo” is resembling the one in Chamula. Zinacantán is known for female collectives (women that were abandoned by husbands and are living in groups with other women and children). First, they will invite you for a home-made quesadilla over an open fire in a “comal” (big metal plate). Then they will try to sell you some of the products they do. Blouses, wrappers, tablecloths. You should check them out, they are good quality stuff. How to get here: The travel agencies usually combine Chamula with Zinacantán. Otherwise, the “combis” to Zinacantán leave from the same street in San Cristóbal, as those to Chamula, only closer to the Mercado Municipal.
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Oventik: Careful here, you are on the Zapatista territory. Oventik is one of the five administrative centers called “caracoles”. The minibus leaves you on the main road. The entrance to Oventik has a big gate guarded by men (or women) in black masks. You have to present yourself with personal ID and say the reason of your visit (usually a simple “I want to see Oventik” will do). You will see some wooden structures painted all over with zapatism themes. But you must not take pictures of any people. If you want something special, you have to ask approval from the “Junta de Buen Gobierno” (The Council of Good Government). Here, I can give you only one advice, be patient. Oventik may be an interesting experience but believe me, the real life of Zapatistas you will not see here. How to get here: Tourist agencies don´t come here (not yet at least). Get a “combi” that leaves from one of the small streets above the Mercado Municipal in San Cristóbal. It costs around 14 pesos and takes about an hour.
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Where to stay:
Hotel/Hostel Mexica. Small friendly space with a central patio and a typical San Cristobal atmosphere. It recently became a member of "Hosteling International". There are private rooms with small tv and bathroom and two dorms, each with 8 beds. Simple but nice. Wifi, lavatory service, shared kitchen, coffee shop and even a small spa!!!
Price: 100-140 (dorms), 250-350 (rooms). Flavio A. Paniagua 28.
How to get here:
You can either go on a bus from Mexico City (926 pesos, 13 hours!) or by plane to Tuxtla Gutierrez. From Tuxtla frequent buses leave to San Cristóbal (1 hour). If you buy your airplane ticket with enough time or during promotions, you can get it for about the same price as the bus fare!

Other buses come from Oaxaca (11 hours, about 500 pesos) and Palenque (5 hours, 156 pesos).