Na Bolom – San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

An Anthropologist’s Dream in the Heart of the Mayan Highlands

People-watching is the most exciting pastime in this blissfully untouched, high-altitude colonial city. More than thirty different Indian tribes— descendants of the ancient Mayas, known for their woven textiles and other highly sophisticated crafts—trek into town to fill the daily mercado, especially on Saturday. Here near-extinct languages like Tzotzil or Tzeltal and beautiful headdresses and embroidered costumes decorated with tassels and ribbons distinguish one tribe from another.

No trip to San Cristobal is complete without a visit to Na Bolom, home of the much-respected archaeologist Frans Bloom, which he shared with his wife, ethnologist-journalist-photographer Gertrude Bloom, until her death in 1994.

The 19th-century hacienda functions as a museum, cultural gathering point, and guesthouse. It is the headquarters for contin­uing research on the area’s constellation of highland villages, where the cultural and religious traditions of the local people thrive.

Communal dinners at the hacienda, in a salon filled with art and artifacts, guarantee an inter­esting mix of visiting scholars and like-minded travelers. Spending a night or more at the guest house may well be the highlight of your journey to this little-traveled corner of Mexico.

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