Leaving San Cristobal

Dear reader, once again we prepare to journey together, though now it is for the final time. 聽Our bags are packed, and we’ve eaten our last breakfast together. 聽Somehow, in a miracle that defies the properties of physics, we have managed to fit our purchases into our luggage, which are straining at the seams. 聽Our flight leaves from Tuxtla Gutierrez at 12:45 this afternoon, and we will hop north until we reach Minneapolis at 11:57 tonight.

The van driver (not Julio, which is sad) has just arrived, and is loading our suitcases onto the roof of the van. 聽Hopefully he brought a tarp to cover them, because for the first time in days, the sky is lowering and it looks like we will get some rain soon.

It is bittersweet to be leaving behind this place which has been our home for the last ten days, but we are looking forward to seeing our loved ones. 聽Please remember, though—we have been through much, and our hearts are still tender from what we have witnessed. 聽Be gentle with us, dear ones. 聽It has been a long journey together, and we hope that, as you have been reading along, you will be able to understand.

But don’t worry—this isn’t the last you’re hearing from us! 聽We have more planned to post, once we’ve had time to write it.

Until then, take care.



Hi, just adding a note about how much I appreciate her work on this blog and the time and love and attention that she has put into her writing so that many of you, and all of us, have a record of what we have experienced and felt and seen and learned. Thank you Leslie, so very, very much! Chris


UPDATE: We have made it back into the United States! 聽The flight is getting ready to board here in Phoenix, and is scheduled to depart on time. 聽Thank you for your well-wishes! 聽We all look forward to seeing you soon!


Chiapas Day 09—The Bees of Acteal

Dear reader, thank you for your dedication to following us on this journey.聽 It has been difficult, as our hearts have broken every day, and we have wept as our eyes were opened to the horrific truths told to us simply, quietly, by the people who have suffered them.聽 I鈥檓 afraid today鈥檚 post will continue that trend as I tell you of our visit to Acteal and the people who call themselves Los Abejas (The Bees).聽 But perhaps, when our hearts have broken enough times, they will break open so wide that we will be able to let the whole world in.

We left the hotel earlier than usual because we had a two hour drive through the winding mountain roads before we could reach our destination.聽 We drove from Los Altos (The Highlands) where San Cristobal lies to the edges of Las Canyadas (The Canyons).聽 The views were breathtaking—brilliant blue skies held up by vast green mountains, which plunged together to form the valleys for which the region is named. Continue reading

Chiapas Day 08—Bartering and an Overview of the Situation in Chiapas

A free morning!聽 What to do?聽 Visit the artisans鈥 market, of course!

Cecilia and David and I had a late breakfast at the hotel and then went wandering through the streets of San Cristobal until we found the large yard outside of the San Francisco Church.聽 (We had passed it on Day 02 during our tour of the city; it was an imposing cream-colored structure covered with intricate carving.聽 The heads and hands of many of the statues of the saints had been blown off with gunfire many years ago during one of the many conflicts that have happened in this city.)

The artisans鈥 market looked much like an art and craft fair would back home: many tables with jewelry, some white tents selling clothing and purses, some blankets on the ground with hats and trinkets.聽 One man was very determinedly selling hammocks, insisting to me that I wanted one in my Minnesota apartment.聽 The crafts were mostly handmade, some by collectives, some by the person selling them. Continue reading

Chiapas Day 07—Chamula, Candles, and Bare Feet

Happy Father鈥檚 Day!聽 To all the fathers who are reading along with us, we celebrated you today.聽 Some of us were able to make a phone call or send an email, but many of us were not able to do so.聽 Instead, we took a moment to think of all of you—the wonderful fathers who have loved us, helped us, and encouraged us.聽 We thank you and celebrate you for making a difference in our lives.

We were able to have a late start today, which for me meant sleeping in and catching up on some rest.聽 Then we all walked to a street where buses were parked for hire, and we again avoided the Clowns in a Bus routine by taking two buses to Chamula.

Chamula鈥檚 Marketplace

It was a genuine privilege to even be allowed into Chamula.聽 Though it is only a short drive outside San Cristobal, for many years it was closed to visitors.聽 It was on the last UTS global justice trip to Chiapas two years ago that one of our groups was allowed to enter for the first time.聽 We were invited to come to the Catholic church in Chamula by Father Pedro.聽 Even with the invitation, though, we had to stop by a government building to purchase passes that would allow us into the church.聽 We were advised to not take any pictures out of respect.聽 Continue reading

Words from the Zapatistas

After our passports had been collected and examined, our group was allowed through the gate and asked to enter the auditorium.聽 The building reminded me of the barn where I used to work with horses: simple wood plank walls with no insulation, cracks of sunlight showing through; many poles holding up the rafters and the plastic roof.聽 The floor was compacted dirt with dried pine needles scattered all over it—remnants from a past celebration.聽 On the far side of the building, seated on a slightly raised stage, were four figures, two men and two women, faces obscured by black ski masks.聽 A few rows of wooden benches were arrayed in front of them, and the prospect of crossing that wide expanse of dirt floor to seat ourselves in front of these silent figures was incredibly intimidating.聽 They murmured to each other as we approached, and I wondered what they saw when they looked at us.

Once we were all seated at their feet, Teresa asked permission to translate.聽 There were some details to work out, such as writing down all our names and where we were from on a piece of paper, as well as the questions we would like them to answer, if they were able.聽 There was the surprise announcement that we would not be continuing on to La Magdalenas, which Cathy wrote about in our post for Day 06.

But then they began to speak to us, voices gentle, quiet, reserved.聽 Their words, delivered so peacefully, struck me and etched themselves into my heart, and I will never forget them.聽 This is what they said.


Words from the Zapatista Council of Good Government at Oventic: Continue reading

Chiapas Day 06—Visiting Oventic and the Zapatistas

What We Were Given

by Cathy Pino

Hello, friends! Thanks for joining us as we live and learn in Chiapas during this study trip. We are grateful for your partnership, your comments on our postings, and your presence in our lives. As we get to know each other and our hosts here in San Cristobal and the surrounding communities, we have also gotten to know many of you through stories of family and friends. Thank you for all that you bring to our lives!

We began our day with the expectation that we would gather in the morning for the two hour drive to the village of Magdalenas, with a stop in Oventic on the way. Oventic is the headquarters for the Council of Good Government, the governing body for the autonomous Zapatista communities of Chiapas. In order to visit any of these communities, of which Magdalenas is one, we would have to receive permission from the Council of Good Government. Continue reading

Chiapas Day 05—A Volcano, Mayan Medicine, and a Sunset

Huitepec Ecological Reserve

The sun was out today!聽 It may not have lasted all day, and there may have been some clouds, but there was definite sun and blue sky visible!聽 As a result, it turned out to be the perfect day for us to go hiking up a volcano.

We piled into a bus to drive out to the reserve.聽 It was the exact same kind of bus as our 鈥渉ow many clowns鈥 routine from Day 03, but we honored our vows to each other and did not try to fit 27 people in the same vehicle again.

Once we arrived, I picked up a brochure (in English!) which reads:

Huitepec, the Silent Volcano, is one of the highest mountains in the San Cristobal Valley.聽 Many locals believe that the Mountain Spirit watches over them, seeing all that they do.聽 Some believe it is a god, and others a magician, but regardless of the belief that leads them there, local people still leave offerings at Huitepec.聽 They hope to keep the spirit of the mountain calm and happy.鈥

We entered the oak forest and climbed up stairs, leaf-littered paths, and sharp switchbacks. Continue reading

Chiapas Day 04—Interfaith Dialogue, Futbol, the 鈥淥ther鈥 Perspective, and Ecological Disaster

Friends, it has been a very long day.聽 For those of you who followed Mr. Melcher鈥檚 posts from El Salvador in March, you will be familiar with his euphemism: Traveler鈥檚 Digestive Issues (TDI) have assaulted members of our group today, including yours truly.聽 As a result, even though we had the evening to ourselves, I spent my time getting medicated and retiring early, rather than catching up on the blog as had been my intent.聽 However, Cipro came to the rescue, and I (and the others) are feeling much more the thing now.

A New Meaning for 鈥淓cumenical鈥

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, with which this trip is affiliated, is an ecumenical seminary.聽 This means that people of all faith backgrounds are welcome, and we all learn together in the same classroom.聽 I鈥檝e told people that it鈥檚 an incredible opportunity to learn how to express myself in an interfaith dialogue while still in my formational process as a minister.聽 It teaches me how to avoid stepping on other people鈥檚 beliefs while still honoring and expressing my own.

But today we walked to an ecumenical school here in San Cristobal where interfaith dialogue has a much different meaning.聽 This school is not for ministers-in-training.聽 This school is made up of a small, dedicated staff who have committed themselves to healing the deep division between Catholics and evangelical Protestants in Chiapas—a division that has fostered suspicion, fear, hatred, and even violence. Continue reading


Indians聽 Deny U.S. Seminarians Access to Their Town

June 19, 2010, Chiapas, Mexico

After seventeen seminarians and teachers from United Theological Seminary in Saint Paul, Minneosta, traveled to the troubled province of Chiapas, Mexico, to learn and share with the people, a local Zapatista community at Oventic turned them away. 聽 鈥淲e were disappointed,鈥 a seminarian said.聽 鈥淪omething was going on in their community,鈥 explained the interpreter-leader.

In the past twenty years, Mexico has developed as the top tourist destination for Americans.聽 Drawn by the beaches and a favorable exchange rate, foreign tourists spent $13.3 billion in 2008 alone. 聽 鈥淵ou can buy anything in Mexico,鈥 a tourist explained.聽 鈥淭hey are so nice and they will do anything for you.鈥

But not in Chiapas.聽 After surrendering their passports at the village gate, Continue reading

Chiapas Day 03—Cosmovision, Clowns in a Bus, and a Reunion

I would like to mention the climate here in Chiapas, as I noticed it has been absent from my posts thus far.聽 Since getting out of the van in the pouring rain our first night, it has been overcast.聽 Generally, things are dry in the mornings, and then after lunch, we can expect rainfall off and on.聽 The temperature remains in the 70s or so during the day.聽 In the evening, it cools off significantly—we are up in the mountains, remember, so we usually bundle up after the sun sets, with temperatures dropping into the 50s.聽 But there is no form of climate control inside the buildings; most places are open-air.聽 So the daily rainfall makes things humid, but then it gets cold at night.聽 Therefore, my attempts to wash laundry in the sink have resulted in socks that don鈥檛 dry for two days.聽 It鈥檚 certainly a far cry from the Dali-esque visions I was having before our departure!

Since we were getting a slightly later start today, those of us who wanted to sleep in were able to.聽 I woke up at the decadent hour of 8:30, feeling well-rested and ready for a new day.聽 There was even time for breakfast and for me to do a quick blog-post of the second half of Day 01, which I had finished writing the night before!聽 We gathered with Teresa in the hotel lobby, and prepared to depart for the University of the Land. Continue reading