For a while I’ve been wondering what baby gifts we should get for our friends Jen and Eric, who are expecting twin girls soon. You could say I don’t really “get” kids. When I speak to them I use long multisyllabic words, I assume that they want to talk about politics, or I force them to sit through my soapbox monologues about the intricacies of proper espresso preparation. It was thus with great joy that I discovered the two perfect gifts for Jen and Eric’s future daughters while strolling around the artisan market in San Cristobal de las Casas.
The first thing I found was this great little handmade wool monkey. It’s a mother hugging its baby. It seemed like a gift that would remind child #1, we’ll call her Guadalupe, that her mother, like this monkey, is a caregiver. I don’t know a damn thing about kids, but it seems like little Guadalupe will benefit from a constant reminder that her mother will give her a hug when she gets sad about petty injustices, or whatever it is that kids get sad about.
Later I was walking by a market stall when this next gem caught my eye. For child #2, we’ll call her Wanda, I couldn’t pass up this handsome wool figurine of the masked leader of the Zapatista rebels, Subcomandante Marcos. He wears a black ski mask over his face and carries a camouflaged rucksack on his back to aid in his survival while camping in the mountains. His cute little wool hands tightly clasp a Kalashnikov machine gun. In times of despair, little Wanda can look at her Subcomandante Marcos doll and find solace in the idea that one day the evils of globalization will be put down and the mountain villages of Chiapas will once again thrive.
There you go Jen and Eric. Let me know if you ever need a babysitter when we’re done with our trip. I’m sure I can come up with a well thought out lecture to deliver while you two go out for a nice dinner.
San Cristobal de las Casas was a beautiful town, and one of our favorites yet in Mexico. It’s mountain location in a pine forest at 7,200 feet, roughly the same elevation as Flagstaff, made us feel at home. Walking through the cobbled streets, through the brightly colored buildings and ample open air markets, we encountered a great number of women and children dressed in traditional Mayan clothing. Women wore long skirts made of black goat hide still thick with unruly goat fur, and brightly colored cardigans. Every Mayan girl over the age of 15 or so had at least one baby in tow.
We found a campsite within walking distance of downtown, yet still tucked away in the trees at the base of the hills. By day we wandered the town streets or took short trips to the surrounding villages (like the last post), while in the evenings we fell asleep to the sound of crickets. We spent one evening chatting with a couple from Switzerland who are on their way north from Argentina to the United States. So far we’ve met at least a dozen groups of Europeans doing this route, but pretty much nobody else seems to be heading south like us.
After a few days in San Cristobal, the ocean started calling to us. The surfboards were looking a little parched and the fishing poles still longed to be used for their intended purpose. And with that, we loaded up Nacho, secured our baby warming gifts, and headed east. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Palenque.