San Cristobal: Drink a cup of mountain coffee

After visiting the capital of Mexico, Mexico City, the world’s largest city, and the three famous literary cities of Guanajuato, San Miguel and Querétaro, we decided to target San Cristo in the southern mountains. Val, hope to experience a more pure Mexican culture.

We arrived in San Cristobal at noon, the sun was scorching in the mountains, but we climbed in high spirits. The outline of the entire city can be seen from the white church of Guadalupe (Cerro de Guadalupe) on the hillside. This is a small town surrounded by mountains. It is located at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters. It is surrounded by verdant mountains and forests. Large red-tiled houses under the mountain are spread out in the valley. White, yellow and blue church buildings in twos and threes show sharp corners. Several mountain roads in the distance pulled out long slender lines and disappeared into the jungle.

The full name of San Cristóbal is San Cristóbal de las Casas (San Cristóbal de las Casas), which belongs to the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico and is the third largest city in the state of Chiapas. And the largest ancient city, it is also one of Mexico’s well-preserved colonial cities.

The earliest name of the town before the Spanish arrived was Jovel, which means “grassy valley” in Maya. This name fully illustrates the geographical location and surrounding environment of San Cristobal. The Spaniards came to the valley in 1528 and created the first colonial town of Chiapas here. The name of the city was changed several times, and it was finally changed to its current name in 1943.

Guadalupe Church, the highest point in the city.

Overlooking San Cristobal.

The murals on the walls of the old house reflect the life and production of the early aborigines.

Local aboriginal cuisine and earthenware utensils.

Among them, “San Cristóbal” is a Catholic saint. Because the city is located in a valley and floods frequently occur during the rainy season. This saint can protect people from water and fire. So the locals chose him as the guardian of the city. There is a San Cristóbal church on the hill. And De Las Casas was a Spanish priest who was dedicated to protecting the natives of Chiapas. In order to commemorate this priest who spent his life fighting violent colonization, he now has the super long city name.

San Cristobal is a very walkable city, with long streets rising and falling with gentle hills, and the city has well-preserved Baroque churches and colonial houses. There is no need to remember the house number here. The house is colorful. Just remember the color of the house and you won’t go wrong. The colonial buildings on both sides of the cobblestone streets, many have now become fashionable hotels, organic restaurants, chocolate shops, bars and galleries.

San Cristobal is surrounded by more than a dozen indigenous traditional villages of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal tribes, which are considered to be the most deeply ingrained central area of ​​Mexican aboriginal traditions.

In American countries such as the United States and Mexico, people often refer to the term “indigenous people”. “Indigenous peoples” mostly refer to ethnic minorities whose historical territories have become part of a modern country and the indigenous inhabitants of that area have been marginalized.

The small town is peaceful. Urban and rural life are perfectly integrated here. The century-old church being restored and the aboriginal market do not interfere with each other.

The aborigines nearby live on farming and animal husbandry, and their lives are relatively poor. Many young people work in the city, and it is more common to work in hotels and restaurants. The hotel employee Andrés, who is in charge of receiving us, comes from a village of Tzeltal, more than 30 kilometers away. The young man is in his twenties, he is not tall, his complexion is yellow and black, his hair is black and shiny, and his appearance is easy. Reminiscent of Indians.

The traditional culture of the indigenous people in San Cristobal’s daily life is obvious. The Virgin Mary in the church of Guadalupe on the mountain is not white, but a Mayan earth goddess with black or yellow skin. The most commonly used utensils in restaurants are earthenware pots, earthenware bowls, and wooden spoons. The utensils are painted with plants and flowers that are common in the mountains. Aboriginal people wearing traditional costumes walked in twos and threes in the wide streets and narrow lanes. Most men wore plain waistcoats, while women liked to wear embroidered blouses and wide and long skirts with vertical stripes. towel. This shawl can not only shade, but also keep out the cold, and can also be used to carry children and pack things.

In the old colonial house, there are many old historical photos on the walls of the beautiful and spacious courtyard. Some houses are open to the public as cultural museums, or become Mayan cultural research centers and bases, or sell handicrafts made in remote aboriginal communities. The urban area has also set up fair-trade small shops for the indigenous people to sell products produced and sold by the villagers. When I entered the store and observed, in addition to the bulk corn in the glass case in the small shop, there were also many bags of corn under the wall.

This peaceful mountain city once became the center of world public opinion. On January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, an armed force called the Zapatista Liberation Army, active near the mountain city, occupied four areas in Chiapas, including San Cristobal City. city. These Zapatistas wearing black veils, mostly poor aboriginals in Chiapas, use “Land and Freedom” as their slogan to call for better living conditions and protection of public land for the aboriginals. Since 2000, this mountainous People’s Liberation Army, known for its guerrillas, has reached a reconciliation with the government, and its activities are currently dormant. The only obvious signs that can be seen are Zapata dolls and wooden guns sold in the market.

With the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, mechanized large-scale agricultural and animal husbandry products entered Mexico, which had a great impact on the country’s agriculture, and it was a devastating blow to the indigenous people who have been marginalized for a long time. Andres told us that imported agricultural products are cheaper than local agricultural products, and the agricultural products cultivated by mountain farmers are difficult to sell at a good price and life is very difficult.

Fortunately, with the continuous improvement of the world’s awareness of land environmental protection, as the world’s fourth largest coffee country, Mexico and Chiapas’ organic coffee cultivation has become increasingly popular in the market. Organic coffee produced by the indigenous people here has become A sought-after item on the world coffee market.

In the final itinerary of the small town, we took the aboriginal organic coffee as an experience project to say goodbye to the small town. There is a famous local coffee shop near the handicraft trading bazaar, which provides visitors with locally produced coffee drinks and also functions as a coffee history museum.

It is also an old Spanish-style house with a beautiful courtyard. The entrance is on the left wall. A blue coffee mountain forest mural is very substituting. The front desk provides multi-language audio simultaneous commentary headphones. There are many historical photos on the walls of the courtyard’s cloister. The corners of the cloister are lined with clay pots of various colors used for processing coffee beans. In the other houses, some old primitive labor tools are displayed, and the large murals on the walls depict The scene of aboriginal people planting coffee.

As an important premium coffee producing area in Mexico, Chiapas produces approximately 275,000 tons of coffee annually, accounting for 45% of the country’s production. More than two million Mexicans rely on coffee for their livelihoods. 75% of Mexican coffee farmers work on less than two hectares of land. These small farmers produce approximately 30% of the country’s coffee each year. The rest are large-scale or high-capacity coffee farmers. Produced by the farm.

The museum introduces the history of coffee and the cultivation process in the Chiapas region. From the initial exploitation to the community-based unit, the market is getting better and better.

The coffee growers here belong to the Coffee Cooperative Society, which is composed of more than 17,000 small-scale local coffee growers in Chiapas. Coffee cooperatives help mountain people obtain advanced foreign planting techniques. The logo of the coffee cooperative is written in a prominent place on the mural.

Aboriginal people’s prevalent way of growing coffee is traditional agroforestry. Various shade trees are often interspersed with fruit trees. Sometimes, relatively dense banana trees are planted under the forest canopy and above the coffee bushes, and the ecological environment is close to forest.

The Andres family has only two or three hectares of land. In addition to corn, coffee, soybeans and other crops are also grown. The poverty of the mountain people has caused most coffee to grow on natural conditions without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Every November is the season for coffee harvest here, and it is also the day when Andrés returns from the city to the village.

The front desk clerk recommended to us a coffee bean called Maragogype, which is large in size and moderately roasted. The product is smooth, full-bodied and aromatic. It is considered the best coffee in the world.

The sun shines into the courtyard, and the fragrance of coffee makes you slightly intoxicated. The coffee contains a spice that is unique to the mountains, which is said to be able to get rid of the moisture in the mountains. The taste is sweet and slightly spicy. It is unusual, such as the city of San Cristobal, which is worth savoring.