A Love Letter to Sancris (inspired by the Pope)
While the rest of the world was busy swapping roses and sending out Valentines, here in Chiapas we spent early February preparing for a visit from Pope Francis. We’ve known for months about his scheduled visit to Mexico and to San Cristobal but it wasn’t until the calendar flipped to February that we started to feel and notice the upcoming visit.
In the days leading up to the big day, buildings were patched up and hammers and saws could be heard around the clock. Buckets upon buckets of paint were purchased and splashed up onto every inch of surface that could possibly come into view by His Holiness. Residents took advantage of the hubbub to spruce up their homes and patios. Protests were held. Protests were dismantled. Graffiti was painted over. New graffiti appeared in the wee hours of the morning. Shirts, mugs, and hats suddenly appeared for sale featuring the Pope’s face. Vendors came out of the woodwork selling everything imaginable. Posters of the Pope and hundreds of yellow flags went up around town. As the day approached all sorts of fences and barricades went up cordoning off restricted areas and parade routes. Hundreds of police and military personnel were bused in to maintain order. And the masses flocked to Sancris. Tens of thousands of pilgrims, tourists and rubberneckers came to join the party. Our streets became an unrecognizable maze.
The excitement was real. The impact on the community was real. The emotion, the buzz in the air – it all happened. But it was also all such a facade. Local residents could see through it. It was just the outer shell of everything that was patched and put into place. It was only for those few days that the municipality cared about garbage or enforcing traffic laws or stray dogs. Walking just a few blocks outside of the area designated as Pope-land you couldn’t tell that anything out of the ordinary was happening. Within minutes of his departure, the street sweepers started to clean up any and all trace of his visit. All the excess t-shirts and other paraphernalia was boxed up and disappeared. The crowds and people all left within 24 hours.
And as our quirky little town returned to normal, so did I. Since returning from our holiday travels I had been feeling unsettled with Sancris. Bored with it. Prone to see all her flaws. Ready to bail. But seeing Sancris turned upside down for a one day visit and then just as quickly reversing into her old self felt refreshing. I felt more and more relief with each thing that returned to normal or was put back into place. I felt comfortable and happy as all of our quirks and flaws came back to life.
And so it was that my love affair with Sancris was rekindled.
Her brilliant colors, both inside and out:
Her magnificent sunsets:
Her quirky artwork:
The revolving door of one-item street vendors:
Her people constantly fighting for social justice and expressing outrage at the inequalities that exist:
Her markets, always vibrant, always lively, always full to the brim with (mostly) local produce:
Even the pedestrian streets, which sometimes annoy me to no end because of their same-shit-different-day-feel:
I can even, once again, find a tiny bit of humor in the endless cycle of street vendor blasting out their speals through megaphones and the endless firecrackers that pierce through the silence of the night. And that’s saying a LOT! So, Thank You, Pope Francis, for bringing your pearly white tornado through town. In the aftermath, I (re)learned to re(appreciate) this beautiful town I call home.
Here’s to hopin’ the feeling lasts.