Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Mexican Street Market: San Juan Chamula

A family at market. Note the toddler held on mama's back by a rebozo.

Last weekend I had the good fortune to spend three days in and around San Cristobal de las Casas, in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. I think I can count San Cristobal amongst my very favorite cities. It's up in the mountains and the cool mountain air was a welcome respite from August in Austin (or Coatzacoalcos, for that matter, which is where I have been these last two weeks). There is a heavy presence of local indigenous groups. I heard many, many people speaking Tzotzil, the local Mayan language, or alternating between Tzotzil and Spanish.

We spent a day at the market in San Juan Chamula, a town outside San Cristobal. The traditional dress of the Chamulans is a black skirt of shaggy wool for the women, paired with a bright silk blouse. The men wear a white shaggy wool overcoat. The wool comes from locally raised sheep, which dot the surrounding countryside. Their homesteads are really impressive and I'll write more about that later. Today I want to give you a taste of the marketplace.

Brother was checking out the wool selection. Those were some really fluffy piles.

Beautiful handwoven baskets for sale next to piles of horrible plastic shoes. For all the natural beauty of the rest of their clothing, the indigenous women wear terrible plastic flats.

Gorgeous sacks of locally grown beans and corn. Corn is grown in every nook and cranny, on every rocky slope and trash-filled lot.

A selection of colorful local fruits and veggies. Many are familiar but the little yellow balls are nanches, a Mexican fruit.

Baby chicks being put in a plastic bag to be taken home. I watched a Chamulan woman tuck one into her rebozo with the rest of her load. Then a little boy wanted these two and got them in a bag.

The boy who bought these chicks ran off down the street with the bag in hand, chicks and all.

I couldn't get enough of the macadamia nuts, which I had never seen before in their shells. They are so buttery and sweet and delicious.

A cartload of rambutanes, which I think are what we call lychees in English.

Women in traditional Chamulan dress, toting children and loads in their rebozos. Rebozos are basically a long strip of fabric used as a bag, baby sling, baby hammock, shawl, and whatever else you may need in the moment.

These chickens grilled over a wood fire looked so delicious. We stopped for chicken later that day.

Four Chamulan policemen in traditional dress and carrying long nightsticks. I decided to take a picture of their backs because they looked all business despite their lack of firearms.


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