Normally, when in Guatemala, Brian and I would encounter countless kids on the streets that would break our hearts – begging for something, anything, just a measly 1Q for whatever worthless piece of junk they had in their hands. It is for these kids that we would really, truly want to help out. It’s amazing to see how a piece of gum, or a glass of agua pura, brings a little life into their faces.
Mexico has been like a vacation from traveling. We probably have a very skewed perspective of the country since we’ve only been to three very large cities where tourists come in droves, but so far we haven’t encountered any kids that have made us feel the way we did back in Guatemala. No, the kids here are craftier and definitely more vulgar if they need be, or so we found out.
Brian and I were in one of the main plazas in San Cristobal de las Casas, where we were approached multiple times by small kids wanting us to write our names in their notebook. “Please, please, your name here in English for my school,” they repeated in English. Finally, we gave in. Ok, ok, we’ll write our name. I went first.
“Here, write your first name,” the little girl said. I wrote my name.
“Here, now write your age and country.” I proceeded.
Now this is where the crafty part comes in. She had the notebook folded in half and then flipped it over and said, “Here’s where you write how much to give to our school.” Ah, I get it now. Little scammers. All the amounts from all the other people were written in the same handwriting. I looked over to Brian, just as the other girl was getting him to sign his name, and told him, “They want our money.”
I tried to give the girl back her notebook, but she wouldn’t take it back and just kept repeating, “Money, money for the school. Twenty-five for me, twenty-five for her.” Brian was trying to get out of his own mess now, too, and told the girl he didn’t have any money, which was absolutely true at the time on his part. The girl he was fighting with pointed to his pocket and said that the money was in there. Nope. Brian pulled out all the garbage from his pockets and proved there was no money there. Very frustrated now, the girls gave up, took their notebooks back, and loudly told Brian to “Fuck off,” and “Die,” as they stomped away.
Way to go, Mexico. Way to breed such aggressive little
con-artists entrepreneurs. Even haggling in the markets here is more difficult! Because of the insanely cold temperatures in San Cristobal, the complete opposite of the sweat-pouring-down-your-face climate of Puerto Escondido, I was forced to buy a warm, wooly pull-over, but we definitely weren’t able to talk these people down too much. They’re good. Oh yes, very good.
Like I said, Brian and I have a very skewed perspective of this giant country. I am glad to point out a few things we’ve learned being here:
1) San Cristobal is like a very large Antigua – much richer and nicer. However, there’s not really anything to “do” inside this city, meaning you have to take day trips outside town for the real appeal – which is something maybe a Mexico guide book would have come in handy for letting us know ahead of time.
2) Sadly, I don’t like Mexican candy. I was drawn to the magical building that read “mercado de dulces” and was filled with multi-colored treats, only to be thoroughly disappointed in the end.
3) San Cristobal has a museum on Mayan childbirth. We opted not to endure the graphic display for a calmer museum on the Lacandon tribe. Supposedly, there are a few of the remaining 500 living in the area we’re traveling to next!
4) Puerto Escondido is good to go to if you are a surfer.
6) The SuperBowl is not so much popular here, even with the Americans traveling. We enjoyed the game pretty much by ourselves in the hostel.
7) We are so ready to get back to Guatemala! We’re planning to take a more adventurous route back, which involves a jungle boat ride sneaking across the border!
Overall, our Mexico detour has been enjoyable, but we find ourselves aching for more Guatemala. Puerto Escondido and San Cristobal are very beautiful cities, so I would recommend stopping by if in the area, but also be aware that these are extremely tourist driven. Also, make sure to watch out for the sneaky “money for the school” girls in San Cristobal!