I came up to San Cristobal a few days ago. I’ve been really looking forward to getting here as it’s where the MayaVinic Fairtrade co-op is located and also looked like a good place to take a rest break.
The one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the change in temperature…I arrived on a cloudy, cool day and my t-shirt collection seems a little inappropriate. At an elevation of over 2,000m, the city still gets warm during the day but cold at night. My long-johns were somewhere lurking in my luggage and it was time to dig them out for the first time since California…
San Cristobal has quite an international, young feel with cafes, coffee (everywhere) and plenty of tourist distractions. The cobbled streets and colonial architecture make the city very walkable and easy to amble around in. And lucky for me, plenty of vegetarian options for eating…
San Cristobal and the surrounding area is also home to many indigenous populations. The Zapatistas, made up of different indigenous groups, made worldwide headlines when they rose up against the Mexican government in 1994 in protest against the continued historical injustices on the day the NAFTA agreement came into being. They continue to seek redress today.
I was happy to get out of Guerrero as it seems to be one the provinces that’s a little higher risk than most. Acapulco was the most obvious sign of that with police frequently rumbling around in their pick-up trucks toting guns of various sizes. Oaxaca seemed to be a lot more appealing. It’s where the population is more indigenous and seemingly more ‘authentic’ (though I’m not really sure about what that says about the rest of Mexico I’d seen – it was hardly a US theme-park version of Mexico…). Perhaps it’s just where older cultures and customs prevail and are more obvious. In any case, I was looking forward to getting there.
The sign said Welcome to Oaxaca and I raised my arm in salute as I passed under it. Riding on a little happier, it was only a few minutes later when I noticed a long line of traffic ahead. An accident perhaps?
As it turns out it was a roadblock. Perhaps this is ‘authentic’ Mexico. Some local farmers (campesinos) were protesting about not being paid by the government for their work. According to one chap he said the money is being used to stop drug trafficking instead. Whatever the reason, it was quite a sight. They were on their third day of protest and nothing was getting through during the daytime. They intended to keep it up for the ‘working week’, only removing themselves in the evenings.
As I rolled my bike through the people and parked vehicles I was a little worried they wouldn’t let me through. Luckily I was greeted in a friendly way by everyone and a couple of people asked me what I was doing. I could only offer sympathy for their predicament, take some pictures, and move on.
Amazingly it was all very peaceful. The police looked on without any concern. People were able to get through using a chain of taxi vans at each end of the block, and the ‘protesters’ were chatting under various canopies they’d set up. It was all very civilised. I only hope someone in government was paying attention to their protest, though I’m doubtful it would achieve any lasting impact.