Photographer's Note

Wall graffiti in San Cristobal de las casas.

The political situation in Oaxaca was still in turmoil in the wake of the teachers strike and the controvertial presidential election (for more) which led to violence and death including assasination of wetsern journalists. Although I skipped Oaxaca in this trip, the tension was palpable in other parts of Mexico, especially in Chiapas.

Theme: Chiapas
I spent a week in the state of Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico bordering Guatamela. It was the highlight of my trip. As Lonely Planet describes, Chiapas is Mexcio's most enigmatic state with wildly ethereal landscape, mysterious indigeneous cultures and customs, colonial and rebellious charm of San Cristobal de las Casas, majestic Mayan ruins of Palenque, and the political presence of the Zapatistas. Rural people of Chiapas, especially the indigeneous people, are among the poorest in Mexico. About one third of the population are direct descendants of the Mayans, and in rural areas many do not even speak Spanish. On January 1, 1994, the day of NAFTA's initiation, an armed revolutionary group, the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN), or popularly known as the Zapatistas, occupied San Cristobal and three other cities in Chiapas and started the anti-neolibralism "Zapatista uprising". The intent was not to overthrow any government, local or federal, but to focus the world attention to the plight of the poor indigeneous people of Chiapas and to protest the signing of NAFTA. The Mexican army evicted the rebels quickly from San Cristobal, and soon after EZLN declared unilateral cease fire. Since then, except for a few low level conficlts, the Zapatista movement kept a low profile and have been working on the grass root level to improve the standard of living of the indigeneous people of Chiapas.

Now, twelve years later, the omnipresence of Zapatistas is clearly palpable in the cobbled streets of San Cristobal. The city walls are full of revolutionary graffitis, the bars and cafes are adorned with Che Guevera, Emiliano Zapata posters, night life is dominated by rebellious reggae music. Since the uprising, the town has adopted a youthful zeal and has been attracting socially conscious people, especially students, volunteers, intellectuals and artists from various parts of Mexico and rest of the world. The city has become a gathering place for Zapatista sympathizers and a base for humanitarian organizations or groups or even individuals working on indigeneous issues.

I spent most of my time in the beautiful city of San Cristobal. Aside from soaking up all the youthful energy, I greatly cherished the sheer beauty of this charming highland town. I went to the Mercado Municipal (local bazaar) every morning for breakfast. It is an onslaught on all the senses, and I felt like I was in one of the bazaars in Calcutta. I made short trips to nearby villages inhabitated by the indigeneous Tzotziles and Tzeltales people of Mayan descent and could not help but develop a deep respect and admiration for the organic and community based cultures and sensibilities of these communities.
(Reference: Lonely Planet's Mexico, Wikipedia)

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Additional Photos by Prantik Mazumder (prantik) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 123 W: 27 N: 219] (1136)
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