Sunday, January 29, 2012

Comitan

Arnulf
My German buddy, Arnulf, said he would accompany me to Amantenango, a small village south of San Cristobal, to see the sculptors. Around town, the most amazing jaguars, snakes, pumas, and lizards appear in the galleries, made from local clay and painted in elaborate designs. The faces share a similar countenance, that of the artist herself. The premier artists are two women: Juana and Maria Isabel.

Back in April , when I was doing volunteer work for Brigitte, photographing the indigenous artists, we had gone to Amatenango to take pictures of Juana. But it was too late in the day to get good shots and she wasn't very willing to do it that day for some reason. We promised to come back, but that never happened.  Eventually, John took some photos of Juana because he stayed here in Chiapas longer than I did.

The travel books tell of going to Amantenango and being overwhelmed by little children selling their own 'animalitos' to the tourists. Driving through the tiny town, you'd almost miss it, except for the plethora of road side stands packed with painted pottery, baskets and sculptures. The best ones, of course, are from the pro's studios, and those are not so easy to find.

A Rodin-like sculpture in the Plaza.
So, Arnulf and I took a Combi headed to Comitan for $40 pesos. I realized that while the Combi driver might let us off at Amantenango, the price would be the same for the trip to Comitan, which is twice as far away. I suggested we go to Comitan, see what's there, have lunch, and then see the pottery on the way back. Of course, for the moment, I forgot we were in Mexico, the Land of Manana. Nothing happens quickly.

We hiked all around Comitan, which was quite a bit further than expected, bigger and hillier than I'd remembered.  The combi trip took a full two hours and that was with no stops to speak of, just a lot of slowing down to ooze over the topes, those half round log-sized speed bumps that every village seems fond of putting into the middle of the highway. Usually there is a little tienda selling drinks and trinkets next to the tope. I'm guessing a lot of drivers end up breaking an axle when they don't see the tope looming up ahead, and are then in need of sustenance while they wait for help.

Comitan's delightful Plaza.
Comitan is an old city, with many ruins nearby, an unknown fact to us until we went through the museum of anthropology, which, by the way, was free. Lunch was in a nice restaurant that seemed quite popular though I've had much better food at Malena's hole in the wall.  The Plaza has several impressive sculptures.We visited some churches and talked about trees and plants that were unknown to us, growing at that much lower elevation. The day was hot though not as muggy as it might be later during the rainy season. It's a pretty town. At one time I had thought to get an apartment there for a month, just to experience a town with almost NO tourists, certainly without English speakers. But after a day, we both agreed that while it was worth the trip, but not a great place to live.

Around 4pm we boarded a large 2nd class bus, at half the Combi price, for the trip back to San Cristobal. When it finally reached Amantenango, it was almost dark and the vendors were closing up shop. Clearly the large buses would be coming less frequently, so we opted to try again another day.




Full sized Puma or Mountain Lion sculpture,
in front of a church.

Old Mayan pot in the museum.

Another of the lovely
Plaza sculptures.


































Arnulf and I both enjoy walking so we walked the couple miles back to the casita for a light dinner of salad, finished off with Kahlua ice cream. It's difficult to eat enough vegetables in Mexico, unless you eat a lot of soups. Fresh, clean, cold salads are hard to come by. The restaurants don't want to mess with making sure the salad greens are super clean and disinfected.  A delicious end to another spectacular day in Mexico!