San Cristóbal de las Casas

The hum, the charm, the colors

If Copán is a quarter-sized version of La Antigua Guatemala, San Cristóbal de las Casas, one of the few remaining colonial gems of Mexico (founded in 1528) is Antigua times three. And, whereas the good people of Antigua seem to revere their city’s signs of age, in San Cristóbal, they have painted, patched and applied mascara. The inner center of the city is designed for walking, shopping and eating, with several streets closed to cars.

The buildings are painted intense reds, purples, serious blues. Perhaps the population feels the need for stimulation because of the often-overcast weather. Yet you’ll need sunglasses to walk around town.
Located in the central highlands of Chiapas, San Cristóbal offers much to see and do and only so many hours in the day. And all the hotels are offering half-price specials.  

An excellent, close-in posada is US$25 a night. Good, nice bath, hot water but no glass for the evening cocktail. The price is right. The arts and crafts here are extensive and beautiful. The shopping is over the top—dresses cut to the navel, more amber than Poland and more shoe shops than Miraflores or anywhere else.

They had a six-day jazz festival in mid July, staged in a spectacular theater built in 1931.
It’s all about color, and not only on the buildings. The tourist guides wear flamingo-colored pantsuits (photo above). The native women wear glow-in-the-dark purple rebozos (shawls). The half-size stoplights at the major intersections flash in red, UNO, UNO.

There are a few hundred expats scattered about, including about 200 Italians who have settled here. The real estate broker at the second office I visited explained: He married an Italian, who had a mother to bring, and so on.

At 6,000 feet plus, the evenings will be chilly: Take a sweater and a jacket (Xela weather).

For travel options, check the Revue travel section for tour operators, shuttles and bus services.

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