My hotel is called the Posada Jovel. When you’re alone, certain jokes seem much funnier than they otherwise might, and the Spanish pronunciation of this name amuses me endlessly. It’s unfair, since this is by far the nicest place I’ve stayed in in Mexico.
My room is simple and clean. The bed has a lumpy mattress, a lumpier pillow, and three cheery blankets for the cold mountain nights. There is a wooden-framed mirror, a desk, a decorative straw hat, and a picture of the famous Sumidero Canyon. And there are two large windows, a huge luxury, facing north and south, through which I can see the mountains that ring the town. I share a bathroom. I don’t mind.
The Posada Jovel is a converted villa on a backstreet, and has several little roof terraces. I’ve adopted one for morning stretches and another for watching the sunset. There are huge bowls of white lilies and the walls are bright blue and orange, like Frida Kahlo’s house. You’ll have to take my word for it that bright blue and orange look wonderful in Mexican light.
San Cristóbal is high up and closer to the equator than I’ve been for a while. The sun aims directly at the top of my head, so that my brain heats up while my fingers are still cold. I seek the sunny or shady side of the street depending on the time of day; the shade is immediately, deeply cool, like water. As soon as the sun goes down behind the mountains I get my jacket.
From the terrace I can see the red-tiled roofs of the town. There are white churches on the foothills. East and west are named mountains, which of course I’ve forgotten. In any case I prefer the hills to the north and south, which are rounded and furry like the flanks of mammoths. I’d like to stroke them.
I would also like to walk in them, but I’ve been warned not to. Local travel agents run tour packages to ‘see the people of the ethnic villages‘ (complete with zookeeper, I imagine). Otherwise, it’s not considered safe for unguided tourists to amble in the mountains. This is Chiapas, and the Zapatista rebels have been busy again recently.
We are a smart species. We mostly fight over the most beautiful places.