I am in the Deep South. Of Mexico, that is.
And Chiapas is as different from its sister Mexican states as Mississippi is from its American sisters. Part of that is tribal. Over 25% of the population is Indian. And incredibly poor.
But its history is unusual, as well. The region did not play a big part in the War of Independence. As a result, it was just as likely that Chiapas would become a state of Guatemala -- rather than of Mexico.
It was not until the late 1800s that Chiapas was politically integrated into Mexico. Even then, the mountains kept the state physically isolated. Almost as isolated as Yucatán.
The first clue that we had entered a different economic sphere was the airport at the state capital -- Tuxtla Gutierrez. The active runway also serves as the taxiway. It has been a long time since I have been in a commercial airplane that performed a 180 degree turn on the runway.
But Tuxtla Gutierrez was not our destination. We were quickly off through the mountainous countryside where forests have given ways to waves of amber maize.
To the colonial town of San Cristóbal de las Casas. For a quick walk around the central area -- and dinner at a rather mediocre Argentine restaurant.
San Cristóbal de las Casas feels a bit like Antigua, Guatemala. With the élan of a once-beautiful duchess who has aged well. A perfect example is the cathedral -- often described as "flamboyant." A future daylight photograph will show you why.
But my favorite part of the evening was the Porfirio Diaz era gazebo. Complete with live band and couples cha-chaing their feet off.
Even though the evening was cold (cold enough for me to don a windbreaker), I sat and watched. And listened. And smiled.
I think I like this place.
Note -- I almost did not make this trip. Saturday morning I woke up with a tooth abscess. I couldn't even eat tortilla soup. An acquaintance recommended putting an aspirin on it. I scoffed, but it worked. Some home remedies are efficacious. Thanks, Marilyn.