Guatemala me llama

Hola a tod@s, I'm writing from San Cristobal de las Casas, the colonial capital of the Mexican state of Chiapas. Since leaving on the sixth I've been following the route that I left off on two years ago: from the Oaxacan coast down to Chiapas. The beach life was good, but the mosquitos are thick as thieves and it's just too easy to stay in the hammock, even when there's so much out there.

When I got to San Cristobal, I turned in my clothes to the llavanteria (clothes washing). Little did I remember the red cotton pants that I bought on the beach. Si senor, every piece of clothing I brought with me on this adventure now has a varying degree of pinkness to it. There's worse things that could happen. I guess.

I brought with me a minidisc recorder with a killer mic, I've been making field recordings of all sorts of things: churches, caves, pozos (wells), german folk songs, cafes, protests, new songs of mine, etc etc etc. The plan is to make a killer mixtape upon return.

I am travelling alone, which really is the best way to go as far as I'm concerned. It's not as if I really spend too much time alone though, there are a lot of people to talk to. In fact, tomorrow I'm taking a series of collectivos (cheap van transportation crammed with people) across the southern border of Mexico into Guatemala, in the direction of a small town called Todos Santos in the highlands. I'm meeting a new friend of mine, Bartek from Poland, who is a professional fotografo / traveller in Todos Santos. (check out his site, amazing pictures, even some of me tocando guitarra) I think we just may go across the jungle highlands by chicken bus. It was the area hit hardest during Guatemala's long and dirty civil war. Not that anyone will mention that in conversation.

A few days ago I rented a horse from this old vaquero and rode up into a village outside of Cristobal. It was only the fifth time I've ridden a horse IN MY LIFE, and the dude liked to run. Crash course in horseback riding. Turns out it comes pretty naturally to me. That is, somewhat naturally. Right after I started the horse realized that I didn’t know jack and decided to take a break by the side of the road and much grass for five minutes. The old women across the street got a big kick out of the scene, as did the horse. There was nothing to do but laugh. That is, until I discovered whipping the horse in its big ol beehind with the rope. I learned a lot.

I went fast, definitely the fastest I have ever ridden a horse. The town, called San Juan Chamula, has the only 'catholic' church I've ever been to that doesn't have a christ. There the majority of the people speak only mayan dialects, some have spanish as a second language. In the church (which was built in the 1520's as part of la conquista) there are glass-boxed saints wearing mirrors and thousands upon thousands of burning candles. The heat and smoke and sound of christmas carols (from those xmas lights that play annoying tunes, a new addition) is really intense and very conducive to hallucinogenic exchanges with whatever god you prefer. Cameras aren’t allowed, and I even was told by a half-blind mayan man that writing isn’t allowed either… which of course I was doing, sitting next to a saint. He didn’t speak Spanish very well, but he was afraid I had written the names of the saints, which would steal them from the church, as would a camera. It made me think a lot about what it would be like to live where there is so much poverty that the people are forced to invite foreigners into their community as one of the only industries. Would you like to be photographed praying?

So tomorrow starts the real unknown. Through Guatemala, through Belize on the way to Yucatan, the caribe and more Mexico. I don’t know how much time I’ll be spending in cyberlandia, but shoot me a line if you get the chance. I’m safe, mostly sane and healthy. I hope everybody is doing at least a little of something they love. I’ll see you on the other side. Now go outside and look at the sky.

Much love desde el sur.

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