High in the estadio de Chiapas — 7,200 ft. base elevation — San Cristóbal embodies much of what I like in a town: Encompassing, evergreen mountains. Seasoned, stone buildings. Whimsical, walkable streets. And cute, craft shops and restaurants. It’s the type of town I could see myself loving. Living. A sister town of my soul.
We crashed at a campground within walking of the Historico Centro. After arriving, we wasted little time, well not little, probably like an hour, before we waltzed into town. We were hungry. We hopped on Google Maps to find a restaurant. This veered us up a steep street, to a plaza overlooking the town. The restaurant was closed. But the view was incredible. We strolled down the main drag, a stamped- and shaped-concrete walking corridor surrounded by simple yet sightly colonial buildings.
Hippie Not Yuppie
Boutique shops, restaurants, hostels, and hotels filled the buildings. Not stuffy boutique. While San Cristóbal caters to upscale clientele — you’ll catch glimpses of five-star in courtyards and around corners — but it’s never in your face. Never affronting. [In contrast and for example, Rosewood, one of the nicest, most expensive hotel chains in the world, occupies like five city blocks in the center of San Miguel de Allende.] It feels accessible. Like you won’t be sneered out of the establishment for wearing flip-flops and mispronouncing some Italian brand. San Cristóbal is more hippie than yuppie. More international than gringo.
The only bummer about our stop here was the timing. We arrived on a holiday weekend. Mexico’s equivalent of Presidents’ Day, honoring their most revered president Benito Juarez. As a result, much was closed. Including all the craft breweries! The beers I coulda drunk! The beers! In addition, the Instituto Nacional de Anthropologie e Historian (INAH) seemed to be simultaneously restoring every significant church and structure in the city, and thus we couldn’t visit any of them. [Fun fact: San Cristóbal has little-to-no pre-Hispanic history. The Spanish didn’t destroy anything to build here. The significant structures are Spanish in other words.]
I have no facts to support this, no reason to believe this, but San Cristóbal felt more community-minded than any city we’ve visited thus far in Mexico. The locals, the indigenous communities that flock to the city to hawk their hand-made crafts, the international expats: you get the sense that everyone is getting along and supporting each-other to accomplish something. What that something is, who knows…. Perhaps it’s just a facade, a carefully-culled alliance to sucker tourists. Whatever it is, it’s working. I nearly started a non-profit to support grieving tourists that didn’t get to sample the city’s craft beers while we were there.
My Kind of Town
This…is…my kind of town, San Cristóbal de las Casas is. My kind of town. A mountain peak at the end of every street. Coffee roasters on many corners. And cool, ol’ colonial buildings just waiting to be restored and lived in. My kind of people too. Eclectic, bohemian, international, lovers of Boise State Football (at least I presume they are). They struck me as the type of folks that you can mountain bike with in the morning, drink a craft IPA with in the afternoon, and then discuss rising tensions between the US and Russia, or the latest episode of Life in Pieces, in the evening.