3 great friends and I have been planning a trip to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead – DOTD) in Chiapas, Mexico for 2 solid years. Like everyone else who planned international trips in the last 18 months, we had to cancel a few times. Boo. After a long wait, vaccinations and lifted travel restrictions, we were finally able to make it a reality this year!
If you don’t know where Chiapas is, it’s one of the southern states in Mexico on the border of Guatemala. It’s also home to 12 federally recognized ethnicities who are direct descendants of ancient Mayans. Not something frequently seen in other locales of Mexico – certainly not in Cancun or Playa del Carmen where American tourists run amok. This diversity makes Chiapas particularly special.
“If people can’t acknowledge the wisdom of indigenous peoples, than that’s their loss” ~ Jay Griffiths
The capitol of Chiapas is Tuxtla Gutierrez, but the central gem of the area is San Cristobal de Las Casas. If you ever decide to visit, staying in San Cristobal is the way to go as several tours start in this colorful, Spanish colonial town. One can also find more than a few markets, tasty restaurants, ornate churches, and if you go during DOTD, there are nightly/daily parades and some of the best halloween trick-or- treaters I’ve ever seen. One thing we did not do was visit Palenque to see waterfalls and ruins, we just ran out of time. This part of the state is supposed to be pretty incredible – next time.
Rather than give you a play by play description of the town, thought I’d tell the story in pictures. Enjoy!
Our hotel, Casa Lum, was on a fabulous street, close to the action, restaurants, bars and shopping. It was the perfect jumping off point to explore the city and enjoy the parades and Halloween shenanigans. The people watching from the patio out front was insane – we spent a good chunk of time there.
San Cristobal is an incredible walking city – at first it’s a bit overwhelming with the flurry of activities, colors, and smells, but it soon becomes a normal part of the experience. There are quite a few europeans and indigenous people living in and around the city. (image of pink monster on the wall by SR)
As mentioned earlier, there were daily parades which were sooo much fun! They were a nice mix of Day of the Dead and Halloween celebrations. We never quite knew when they would start, but they seemed to be never-ending. (image of the Catrina in yellow by KR – her new iPhone took some amazing pictures at night).
Trick or Treaters were out in full force for not 1, but 2 days. Lucky kids! They were the sweetest, most gracious little humans. One of my favorite things in life is handing out Halloween candy. October 31st in Chiapas was one of the most fun nights I’ve had in a long while! (images of 4 clowns, girl in blue, girls in red and black, and the joker all by KR).
“Halloween was confusing. All of my life my parents said, ‘Don’t take candy from strangers’. And then they dressed me up and said, ‘Go beg for it’. I didn’t know what to do! I’d knock on peoples doors and say ‘Trick or treat – no thank you.” ~ Rita Rudner
San Cristobal de La Casas is a town of roughly 200,000 residents. Given the strong faith of many in Mexico, there is a church in every neighborhood, all seemingly requiring a ton of stairs to ascend. (image of yellow church with blue sky by SR)
The decor and ambiance of the restaurants and cafes was soooo well done. We spent many hours in these beautiful places sipping wine and sharing laughs about the day’s adventures. We didn’t have one bad meal. In fact, I had some of the best Tres Leches cake in this sweet little town.
“I’m convinced that anyone who doesn’t like Mexican food is a psychopath” ~ Jim Gaffigan
There were definitely signs of the Dia de Los Muertos celebrations in San Cristobal, but not as many as we thought there might be. My friend KR, built an ofrenda for us so we could mourn and celebrate our loved ones who’s lives were lost too soon. It was the sweetest thing ever. Tears flowed freely.
We did manage to take a specific tour to the surrounding indigenous villages to share the Day of the Dead festivities with the locals. More on that later. (image with ridiculously hairy arm (mine) by KR)
In short, we laughed, cried, walked, explored, ate and drank our way through San Cristobal. It was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in Mexico. Perhaps it was the timing or the best travel companions for this sort of trip. Regardless, I’ll never forget it.
…i choose this…