It was a rest day. Inevitably we woke early and were up and out before the streets had aired. It had rained during the night but the day was right and sunny and only the puddles in the frequent craters in the pavement gave any indication of the how wet it had been.
We walked back to the zocalo (those who have been concentrating will know this to be the town square). The roads leading to it were narrow, pedestrianised and lined with two storied small shops. As we walked through, shopkeepers were beginning to open up and the pavement traders were starting to set out their wares. A few cafes were open and serving breakfast. It is quite a cosmopolitan town, with language students, modern day hippies, tourists and locals all mingling and enjoying the laid back atmosphere.
On reaching the square we found the tourist kiosk and then set off to find our first museum. It was not to be. After trudging down the road to find number 38 and knocking virtuously on the door ( it was just 10.00 am and we were at our first museum!) a man emerged, saying that the museum was closed (guidebook opening times 10.00 until 6.00) and that his sister would open at 5.00. With this and after providing us with the merest glimpse of the courtyard behind him, he slammed the door shut and left in an awaiting taxi. Well. That was it. Crushed in our first pursuit of learning for the day, we went shopping……. I don’t think we will be back.
Before thar was the Jade Museum, briefly visited the day before to take a better look at the wonderful jade masks which were found in tombs we were to see later in our travels.
After that the shops. The market full of all manner of colourful trinkets and blankets, the textile shop with its amazing embroideries, you name it we visited. No stone was unturned. We even had a very nice waiter called Riga (‘I lived in California for 40 years, came to St Cristobal for a five day holiday last year and never left’) the waiter in a coffee stop negotiating for a hat for Monica with one of the street traders. It was great fun. However there is a negative side to the women of all ages who wander the street with their wares on their arm or on their back. Many of them have been abandoned by husbands who go to the US to make their fortunes and never return. So the wives are left to make what living they can. Many had very young children with them. Of the street hawkers and those in the better position of having pitches in the plastic covered market that covers a vast area in front of the St Domingo Church, most of them were women. There from early morning until late into the chilly night. Many sold the same goods. How many could a living I dread to think.
We also found some enthusiastic (if a little bashful) group of young dancers performing on a stage set up across the road. It was all very colourful if a little haphazard. The music broke down at one stage leaving the young people at something of a loss, although they heroically kept dancing!
We eventually found our way back to our hotel, dropped off our purchases, and set off once again, in the opposite direction to find another museum. The pavements are narrow, very high and quite clear uneven. Some of the houses were extreme colourful.
The Museum was once the home of Frans Blom and his wife Gertrude Duby. She was a Swiss journalist and photographer and he was something of an explorer. They left their home in St Cristobel (a disused monastery) to the nation as a place of study and research, a museum and providing accommodation to those who look to carry on their work, having spent a lifetime supporting the native Mayan people save their habitat, the rain forest of Lacandon. It was an interesting place with many photographs and artefacts from their travels.
We returned to the hotel to gather ourselves together (we move on again tomorrow), hopefully collect our laundry and go out with the group in the evening. In the event we did not eat with the others but returned to the restaurant where we had eaten the previous night and watched the dancing of the floor show which we had not seen the precious evening.