I felt like I was in a movie when I arrived in Chiapa de Corzo – a charming Pueblo Mágico in Chiapas – around 6 pm on a Friday night.
Tourist with big backpack, smiling big and staring wide-eyed at the massive small-town celebration taking place: A huge, noisy parade with awesome floats carrying well-dressed festival royalty and musicians, carnival rides and booths; women in beautiful dresses dancing up a storm; a lot of men in drag doing the same thing; barely any room to walk near the parade route; food everywhere, and a michelada stand just about every 10 feet. Truly impressive, vibrant, and fun.
After spending two hours unsuccessfully looking for a place to stay, I decided to worry about where to lay my head once I was done soaking it all up and partaking in the party. It turns out the Fiesta Grande is a yearly, multi-week festival in honor of San Sebastián for which people travel to Chiapa de Corzo from all over the state. I got there just in time for the final weekend, and of course, every place had been booked weeks in advance. So, I chatted with some locals, got some grub, and enjoyed a tamarindo michelada, knowing I’d just backtrack to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital 30 minutes away, to sleep. Not ideal for time and budget, but at least there were options nearby.
I ended up at La Casa del Jardín in a mixed dorm. Good people, clean place, but the street noise and their rooster meant an earlier-than-desired start. And, someone stole my Seahawks shorts, the only ones I packed and the ones I depended on for my runs.
Azael, a fellow guest at the hostel whom I’d met there the night before, had similar plans for the day, so we cruised back to Chiapa de Corzo together to check out the astounding Cañón del Sumidero, which had been billed as a must-see while in Chiapas (and lived up to that billing).
CAÑÓN DEL SUMIDERO
This beautiful canyon is split by the Río Grijalva and is featured on the state emblem, so it truly is an important local spot and one that should be at the top of any traveler’s list when in Chiapas, especially on a clear, sunny day. It’s massive (1 km from top to bottom at its highest point!) and impressive.
Just past the zócalo, where the Fiesta Grande would conclude in style later that day, is the embarcadero, where we were quickly able to snatch up tickets (190 pesos each) for the next departure on a 40-seat boat.
The two-hour round-trip ride with some insight by the skipper was a damn good call. On top of the amazing views, we saw crocodiles and all sorts of bird life on the ride, after which we walked back to the middle of Chiapa de Corzo, where the Fiesta Grande was starting to come alive and Chiapanecas and parachicos were beginning to flood the streets.
I really couldn’t believe my luck at having serendipitously arrived just in time to enjoy the Fiesta Grande, the biggest local party of the year. If it weren’t for the opportunity to check out a Jaguares pro soccer game later that night, I would have spent the weekend in San Cristóbal de las Casas, which I’d heard so much about.
With costumed partiers (young and old, drinking Sol or micheladas to ward off the heat) assembling in significant numbers on the streets, we had a chance to be right in the thick of things as the nascent grand finale – which would culminate with a procession of some 6000 parachicos and chiapanecas to and through the church of San Sebastián.
We followed the main group for a while, saw another begin their departure from their church, and stuck around watching things go down for about 90 minutes before going to get something to eat near the main square.
But instead of grabbing prepared food somewhere, we did the most Mexican thing. And one everyone should do once when hungry in México. Unable to resist the sweet scent of fresh tortillas emanating from one of the tortillerías we walked by, we picked up half a kilo of those bad boys, grabbed a local speciality, pozol, to drink over by the church of San Sebastián, and bought two ripe avocados nearby to go along with the tortillas. Basic, but delicious (aided by some salt one of the food vendors shared with us).
Unbeknowst to us at that point, we’d picked a great spot to sit down and enjoy our gourmet meal. Right in front of the church, along the street where the massive procession would be taking place 2 hours later.
We waited it out talking to locals, taking pictures of the growing masses, and before too long, fireworks signaled the start of things from a hill a couple kilometers away. And patience paid off, as it ended up being quite the spectacle of sound and color.
After things wrapped up, Azael left for San Cristóbal and I stuck around to enjoy a michelada before heading back to Tuxtla to the game.
LIGA MX – Jaguares vs. Veracruz
When the Liga MX schedule came out last month, I was able to plot some games I could potentially hit in different stadia along the way. I love live events, especially soccer, so if I was in the right place at the right time, I figured I’d go.
The Jaguares vs Veracruz match was one I figured I’d hit, albeit it wasn’t a star-studded, attractive match. The 9 pm kick-off allowed for most of the day to be spent doing tourist things, and I didn’t mind checking out a new stadium and seeing how they ran game day ops and what the food & bev situation was like.
Luckily, the stadium was a 25 minute walk from the hostel, so once I got there and cleaned up a bit, I walked right out and google mapped my way there and got to the stadium area about 15 minutes before kick off.
It was eerily quiet and poorly lit for a game day, and as I approached the bend and saw the dark stadium, I realized that there was no game. The schedule said there was a game with those opponents at that stadium; I checked it half a dozen times. I looked to ensure I hadn’t mistaken the visiting team for the home team; I hadn’t. I was perplexed and a little disappointed.
Sure enough, I hit their website on my cell phone and confirmed they had a home game vs. Veracruz that night. But that it’d be played in an alternate stadium. I figured I could hustle to the other stadium and make most of the game. But the game was in Puebla. 443 miles away. I have no clue how the hell they decided that a home game at an alternate stadium a 9 hour drive from their home stadium was a reasonable place to host it, but they somehow did. Vexing to say the least. And stupid, if you ask me.
Turns out that it was due to preparations for The Pope’s mid-February visit.
I left for San Cristobal the next morning, but I made a quick exit a day after arriving, as there was very little magic, but a lot of tourists, in the little Pueblo Magico.