San Cristobal de las casas is the main tourist draw in the state of Chiapas and one of the most popular tourist towns in the whole of Mexico. Near the border with Guatemala, it is often compared with Antigua, the former Spanish administrative capital for central america. Both are atmospheric colonial towns with pleasant pedestrianised streets and a fine selection of restaurants and cafes. It is at an altitude of 2200m, meaning it gets quite chilly in the evening.
Personally I prefered Antigua, with its stunning location surrounded by volcanoes, dilapidated old churches and stunning restored colonial mansions. But that’s just me.
The Zapatista Revolution
While in San Cristobel one night, I attended a screening of a famous local documentary about the Zapatista uprising 20 years ago, when the whole town was taken over by armed indigenous rebels. Chiapas is one of, if not the poorest state in Mexico. Indigenous rights have long been ignored, education and health care are the worst funded, etc. Decades of neglect from the central government eventually led to an armed uprising by a group of bandana wearing rebels, led by their charismatic talisman, Subcomandante Marcos. Much of the state was taken over, leading to a stand-off with the national government, who moved the army in with predictably bloody results. The rebellion, however, did not end there and Subcomandante Marcos organised a huge march to the capital coordinating with other indigenous groups all over the country, eventually converging on the Zocalo, the main square in Mexico City, filling it to capacity. Concessions were made by successive Mexican governments but were never honoured. As you travel through the countryside in Chiapas, you often come across signs reminding you you are entering Zapatista country and that the conflict is still not resolved to this day. The full movie is available on youtube, but is in Spanish with German subtitles