Despite loving a great many places I have been to over the years, there haven’t been many that I have honestly thought I could spend months and months at a time looking around. San Cristóbal de las Casas, or San Cris, as it’s affectionately known by those who can’t be arsed to say the whole thing, is a lovely colonial town sitting proudly in the state of Chiapas, and is one place I can see myself going back to again and again. Mike and Dan have been back since their first visit too – it’s the sort of place where you find something new each time you come. It may just be our favourite city in Mexico.
It is a place where indigenous people, local mestizos and tourists live side by side, and everyone seems to rub along nicely. Handicraft sellers walk the streets with bracelets and weavings trying to make a living, there are wandering musicians and artists, and the streets are lined with all manner of eateries, museums, churches, and live music venues. It’s also cheap as chips, which is always nice. I remember being struck by its incredible hilltop views last time around (San Cris is at high altitude and has some very steep streets) and it certainly lived up to my fond memories. The four of us spent several happy days there, wandering the cobbled streets and baking in the sun during the day, and snuggling into our scarves, drinking mezcal with orange wedges over deep and meaningful (!) discussions at night.
With a very prominent indigenous population in San Cris, many living in the nearby town of San Juan Chamula, it is no surprise that a great many people come here to enjoy the area’s rich history of weaving and textiles. Just recently, a museum partially funded by Banamex has opened in San Cris to preserve and promote traditional weaving techniques and document how it has changed over time. Housing hundreds of examples of weaving from all over the Mayan world, the Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya provides a thorough education in the craft, from the influence brought about by Spanish tastes and customs, to the explosion of colour in the sixties, when artificial threads and materials were cheaply available for the first time. Examples of this can be seen throughout the museum, which is fabulously laid out – each room with a showcase of striking pieces, and featuring dozens of drawers that you can pull out to closely examine the huipiles, mantels, and clothes within. Weaving is a vital part of the heritage here, and it astounds me how using backstrap looms, they hand down the craft through the generations, holding intricate and beautiful patterns in their heads to produce such beautiful yet functional results.