Zapatista, Crapatista

I´ve now been to about 12 temples, three museums, every park and market in this town. It´s small. There was one thing I wanted to do before I moved on to the next town however; I wanted to take a little day trip to see the Zapatista Rebels that live about an hour and a half out of town. Frankly, I didn´t know too much about them. I know that they are against the government here, I know that San Cristobal is famous mostly for the invasion of the Zapatistas in 1994, and I know they have a cool name. ZAPATISTA. It has a real ring to it.

Armed with what is obviously an obscene amount of knowledge as well as a bit of info about where to catch the bus, I head for my next cultural experience. After nearly two hours, the bus pulls over on what appears to be a country road and the driver tells me we´re there. We are, in fact, pretty much no where. I then see the gate to the entrance. There is a man standing there in a black ski mask that covers everything but his eyes. ¨Um, can I come in?¨

¨You´ll have to wait.¨ Fair enough. There are a couple other people waiting. I go stand next to a friendly looking girl and ask her in my best Spanish what exactly we´re waiting for. She says she´s not sure either, but they took her passport over 20 minutes ago. ¨Um, do I need my passport?¨ She says she doesn´t know and we chat about the world cup.

An hour later they get around to asking me if I have a passport. ¨No, I don´t. It´s at the hotel.¨ They proceed to ask me a series of questions and now there are three masked men listening to my answers. One writes them down. Name? ¨Chaseca,¨ he writes. Close enough. Country? Organization? Occupation? Objective? Holy crap. I think I did good up through ¨country.¨ I don´t even know what organization was supposed to mean, I stuttered answering the occupation question, and apparently ¨I want a tour¨ is not a good enough objective. Crap.

I had to wait another 20 minutes for my request to be denied. Cool. It´s not like I had already spent four hours trying to see this place and had a two hour ride back. Besides the fact that every single person was allowed entrance except me. I decide to gently probe one of the men as to why exactly my request was denied. He says I have to have a clear objective. I look over the gate and see a sign that says, ¨Mujeres de la Dignidad: La artesania.¨ I tell him I would like to talk to the mujeres about artesania.

Another 20 minutes and I´m let in. I´m led into the first building: The one I read the sign from. I´m allowed to look around and talk to the women as I please but there is a masked woman that follows me. She waits outside the door, but it´s one of those half doors where the bottom is closed and the top is open: She can barely see over the top half and it´s super creepy.

There are about 8 or 10 indigenous women sitting on the floor and most of them seem to be doing paperwork which was not quite what I expected. Spanish is a second language for these people too, but I manage to get in a few good questions and there is a little girl that follows me around smiling. I talk to a woman who is embroidering a shirt and she lets me watch. I ask her how long it takes to do one shirt and she says she doesn´t really know, maybe a week.

I try on a shirt and I actually really like it, so I buy it. 120 pesos: $10 for a week´s worth of work. The friendly girl I met at the gate shows up to look around and after talking to her and her guide for a minute, he agrees to give me a tour of the town. Thank God! My masked mini-shadow stops him. They are speaking their indigenous language, but I can tell what´s being said. She can´t go. He tells me to wait and he´ll go ask.

I take a seat on a little wooden stool and wait. I mean what´s a little more waiting at this point? I´ve come this far. I wait and wait. I even wait patiently at first. Except the women are done with their work day; they´ve all gone home. I´m now waiting all alone in a little artesania jail surrounded my handicrafts and I´m angry and hungry and have to go to the bathroom. The man never comes back.

When I stand up and walk outside, even my shadow is gone. For being incredibly strict, these people are incredibly unorganized. I ask again if I can have a tour. They say no. I ask if I can leave. They say yes. My voice cracks and I start crying as I mutter ¨Gracias¨ and leave through the barbed wire fence.

What a total waste of a day.

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