Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Dias de las touristas...
Leaving San Augustinillo and the Pacific behind me once again was not an easy thing to do. I was just beginning to find my footing and was rediscovering my connection to the ocean; my last session, I felt, took me to the next level of surfing.
I travelled with Nina and Veronika on the overnight bus to San Cristobal de la Casas, it was an arduous ride but at least we saved a nights rent. Our intention was to go see the Dias de las Muertos celebrations, one of the most important times of the year in Mexico. It consists of two days of ceremonies, the first to remember children, and the second adults. On the second day of celebrations families eat and drink in the cemetaries, not necessarily to mourn but simply to just remember loved ones and celebrate their lives. Someone later pointed out to me something so obvious yet seemingly hidden from our everyday thoughts. In North America we have nothing to keep us remembering those that died except for our gloomy cemetaries and pictures on the wall. The one cemetary that I´ve seen here in Mexico was multi-colored, and flower filled, and lit every night of the year by candles around the graves. Here both life and death seem so much more sacred, and times like Dias de las Muertos show that the people here don´t take either for granted.
For all of these reasons, it was hard for me to approach this time of importance as a tourist. I felt like I wanted to be a part of it, but I wasn´t, because I had hardly spent enough time there, and I knew very few people. Dressing up in a costume and getting drunk in a cemetary was not going to cut it, and so I sat aside while foreigners from around came and took pictures of themselves with celebrating locals, as if they were close friends remembering a common loved one. Perhaps one day I will actually be a part of Dias de las Muertos, but I didn´t want to treat it as Disneyland.
San Cristobal is teeming with tourists and travelers from around the world, and rightly so as it is an incredible little city with a unique vibe. The markets there are quite interesting, with a sprawling food market, and another market that I will call the "Western Exploitation Market". This market has all kinds of things to buy, from ridiculously cheap parkas to native crafts. While there were a few things that even I was tempted to buy, I couldn´t help but notice how many useless things could be found. As I walked through the market I started looking around in bewilderment, confused because I couldn´t understand who in their right mind would buy most of these things, but surely somebody was keeping the market going. Then the obvious came to mind, the bitter truth, we are the ones buying this stuff! All of the things being sold there are just as useless as so many of the things North Americans buy all the time. This market was staying afloat buy exploiting the Western sickness of materialism and consumerism, it was exploitation that I couldn´t help but appreciate.
I rendezvoused with Liam in San Cristobal and then we made our way over the border into Guatemala, surprisingly free of hassles or border guard bribes. About ten minutes into Guatemala I instantly felt as though I was in a different nation, if only because of the geography and the way things were organized. Now we are here in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala studying Spanish and enjoying Guatemalan culture, which is much different by the way, than that of Mexico. I´ve moved into a home with a Guatemalan family, so as to become entirely immersed, and I´ve also started volunteering with an NGO out here, but more on those next posting...