Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Return to the Familiar

Mayan Cross in the plaza of the Guadalupe Church
All over Mexico, you'll see restaurants with the phrase "Restaurante Familiar" under the name. It means they welcome families. Now in the US I would avoid a "family restaurant" like the plague - fearing my meal would be one long scream-fest. But children in Mexico are normally very well behaved and there's only crying when one is hurt or desperately needs a diaper change.

My city familiar is San Cristobal de Las Casas, in Chiapas. I'm there now. This is my sixth time to live here for some part of the year. In 2012 I lived here attempting to rehydrate my dessicated high school Spanish and have rented apartments in several locations since then.

Now I am staying in Casa Blues. It was a large two-story home to an extended family for at least a century and has been owned by the smae family for about 30 years. The two grown boys live here with their wives and children. There are two nice casita's in their own little garden on the other side of the wall from the family house. My friend John lived here for about three years before moving back to the west coast. I stayed in his casita once when he was gone, and then rented it for myself this year.

Casa Blues is just a few doors down from Margarita's house, where I took care of her animals when she was gone. It's two blocks from the house where I lived for 6 months, and barely four blocks from el Centro where I rented two different apartments. At night I can hear the amplified jazz musicians singing in the bar down the street. The tropical birds and neighbor's rooster wake me up in the morning.
View of my portal out the bathroom

I know the banana man in the market where I buy the giant red bananas for frying and the tiny sweet yellow ones for eating.

I wander up the Cola del Diablo, the Tail of the Devil, a narrow street that makes a sharp turn to the left. Some cars go too fast and once in a while a pedestrian gets run over.  But the best little bakery is just on the other side of that turn and I know to walk on the left side of the street, the sidewalk is higher. When cars go too fast they tend to overshoot the turn and hit the right curb.

Traveling is always a little scary, and it's the unknown things, like the Cola del Diablo,  that actually endanger us. When one becomes familiar with a place fears disappear. This city is my Mexican home. I know people. I'm invited out to lunch, concerts and parties. Though I'm only here for short periods of time, I feel safe. I am in la ciudad familiar, in the bosom of chosen family.

Staircase leading up to the San Cristobal
church with great views of the city.

A great view from San Cristobal Church