Monday, January 16, 2012

Chiapa de Corzo

Chiapa de Corzo is a small town, almost encroached upon by Tuxtla-Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas. It sits on the banks of the Grijalva River which runs through Canyon del Sumidero, a national park and beautiful gorge with towering walls and lush vegetation. In order to get into the park, most people take a boat from the embarcadero in Chiapa de Corzo.

Every year the town celebrates from the weekend prior to the weekend after January 20th, which is Saint Sebastian's day. John and I boarded a bus and rode down the curvy autopista (toll road) to the town to see the festivities. It was about 20 degrees hotter at that much lower elevation than we were accustomed to in San Cristobal. We surely could have dressed more appropriately.

The town was packed solid with observers and participants in the parades. Music blared out of loudspeakers from amplified live bands, women wore colorful flared dresses and men were in  costumes representing the "Spaniards". The costume consisted of a strange helmet-like hat made from the stiff fibers of the maguay plant, a painted mask, black suits, scarves, and long colorful drapes. The parade moved in some predetermined pattern, sometimes groups of people stopped to dance before moving on. Every once in a while, with no warning, and apparently no concern for safety, someone would light a bunch of fire crackers. At the end of the parade, a couple of giant dancing puppets, a man and woman, kept time to a Mariachi band.

Los Mariachis
In the zocalo, a carnival was set up with dozens of rides, food vendors, outdoor restaurants, and game booths. The air filled with the odors of roasting corn, grilled meats, and burned popcorn. The whole town was so thick with people it was tough to move around.  After a meal of shaved beef wrapped in tortillas that had been cooked upright much like a Greek Gyro, we skirted the fair and wandered down to the river. Its banks are lined with restaurants. The empty tour boats sat anchored out in the river. Hawkers with pamphlets extolling the virtues of various tours trolled for customers. I picked up one flyer and only when we got home did I realize the 'tour' was only for attractions like the zoo and zip-lining at the park, no boat ride was included.

The day was short and night came too quickly. The bus took us to Tuxtla so we hopped off and went to Soriana, a major grocery-department store, not unlike WalMart. After an hour of shopping which was mostly wandering around, it was time to head home. Getting across six lanes of traffic without the benefit of a cross walk or a light, a typical pedestrian experience in Mexico, we were able to catch a bus headed back to San Cristobal.

People of all ages dressed for the parades.

Parade goers stopped to listen to a band.

Smoke from grilling meat,  the best advertisement!

A gaggle of girls in gorgeous dresses. 

The inside of those strange hats.

Man in Spaniard outfit. Note the
different faces on the masks.
Close-up of the men's costume.

A very tired Spaniard holding
his mask.

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