A Magical Trip to Chiapas and the Yucatan

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Last summer, Bonnie Brunt from Spokane, Washington, enjoyed our tour to Chiapas and Yucatan.

I wanted to write you a quick note to let you know how thoroughly this trip surpassed my expectations. It really was a magical trip for all of us—one that we will never forget—and much of that was due to the services of our amazing tour guide Javier. He really was a great match for our group of bright, professional, well-traveled women. His knowledge of the Mayan civilization and culture was profound, his passion for the subject deep, and his explanations, articulate. He was extremely professional and personable (good-natured, kind, sensitive to the needs and desires of the group). In addition, he was really good at organizing our time such that we were in the right places at the right time, taking into consideration the weather, the size of the crowds, etc.  We just could not have been more happy with him.

Thanks for all you did to make this trip so special for all of us!

Bonnie Brunt
Dean, Visual & Performing Arts
Spokane Falls Community College

 Flamingos in Yucatan, Mexico
Flamingos flock at an estuary near the beach at Progreso, Yucatan.
Misol Ha Falls in Chiapas, Mexico
Misol Ha Falls in Chiapas, Mexico
Exploring the Mayan ruins of Palenque
Exploring the Mayan ruins of Palenque

I Could Not Be More Pleased

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Last July, Judy Theodorson, from Spokane, Washington, traveled with us on our Yucatan & Chiapas Adventure.

Dear Lee,

Overall, I could not be more pleased with this trip. Just abut everything exceeded my expectations. While I have extensive travel experience, I have never before used services of packaged/guided tour. This trip taught me the value of utilizing the experts.

Highlights are many. Perhaps the most memorable stop was the church in Chemula where we saw an amalgamate of Mayan and Catholic practices. My academic area is architecture, so I was delighted by the Mayan ruins, in particular, I enjoyed those less traveled—Calakmul, Edzna, and Uxmal. In the future, I hope to visit more of the smaller ones. I was also pleased by the opportunities to experience the natural world—rivers, jungles, beaches—which helped to contextualize the ecological foundations of this impressive place.

I appreciated that our group was able to customize the tour to meet our needs. I hope to do another trip in the future with students that will require even more customization.

The hotels were fine. Several—San Cristobal, Merida, Chichen Itza—were unexpectedly wonderful in terms of both architecture and comforts.

The absolute highlight of our trip was our guide, Javier Sosa Pacheco, who was perfectly matched to our group. I must sing his praises—foremost is his deep knowledge in many subjects including archaeology, anthropology, architecture, Mayan beliefs, history and natural history. He is a natural teacher, delivering the knowledge with clarity, with stories, and with a point of view. By the end, he had done a beautiful job of tying our experiences into a coherent and memorable whole. Furthermore, he is professional in every way—on time, courteous, attentive—and gifted with patience and humor. Importantly, he took the initiative to massage the itinerary so that we had the best experiences possible, for instance, visiting Chichen Itza early in the morning rather than late on a busy day. Finally, he was a great driver.

My experience overall is so positive that I’m already planning another trip to the Yucatan peninsula.

Sincerely yours,

Judy Theodorson, M.Arch, RA
Assistant Professor Interior Design
School of Design and Construction
Washington State University

Mayan ruins of Palenque in Mexico's Chiapas State.
In the jungles of the Mexican state of Chiapas, the ruins of Palenque contain some of the finest architecture, sculpture, and bas-relief carvings that the Mayans produced.

Never Stop Traveling

Tarahumara lady and baby in Mexico's Copper Canyon
The Tarahumara inhabit the same region they have for centuries—the rugged Sierra Madre of northern Mexico, known as Copper Canyon.

A recent post on the blog “never stop traveling, the source for travelers 50 and beyond,” listed the top tourism destinations in Mexico, as reported by the Mexico Tourism Board.

They noted that although there has been much coverage by the US media of the crime situation in some areas of Mexico, millions of US and Canadian citizens visit Mexico each year, and many live there year-round.

Among the destinations listed as Top Ten are Copper Canyon, Yucatan and Chiapas, all places which The California Native has specialized in for the past thirty years. We would love for you to join us.

In Sumidero Canyon, It’s More Than Just a Croc!

There is a local legend revolving around Chiapas, Mexico’s, Canyon del Sumidero. Legend states that the local tribes were fanatic about remaining out of bondage. So in order to escape slavery by the Spaniards, they committed mass suicide by diving into the canyon, believing that they would be free in the afterlife if they did so.

Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas, Mexico
In Mexico's Sumidoro Canyon, local Indians thew themselves over the cliffs rather than be enslaved by the Spaniards.

There is some historical fact associated with this legend. When the Spanish first came to Mexico, they conquered the Aztec empire, which was located to the north and west of Chiapas for the most part. Later, when Cortes sent tax collectors to Chiapas, they were met with fierce resistance. Eventually, in a fierce battle between indigenous forces and Spanish conqueror Diego de Mazariegos, many Indian warriors threw themselves into the Canyon del Sumidero, preferring death to slavery.

This canyon is located in extreme southeastern Mexico, in the central state of Chiapas. It was formed by a fault that still runs through the canyon, through which the Grijalva river still runs. The river and canyon are the primary feature of what is now known as Cañón del Sumidero National Park. The Mexican government named the site a National Park in 1980, in order to protect the area around it, as well as the flora and fauna. The canyon is one of Mexico’s most beautiful features, though it is not well known outside the country. It is the central tourist attraction for the state of Chiapas; important enough that it features on the state’s coat of arms.

Crocodile awaits prey in Mexico's Sumidero Canyon
A crocodile blends in with his surroundings as he waits for his unwary dinner in Mexico's Sumidero Canyon.

The park is formed by two features; the Canyon del Sumidero itself, and the plains that the canyon-forming Grijalva river runs through. A series of tremendous earthquakes thrust the plains in some places more than a kilometer above sea level millions of years ago. Some time after, the Grijalva river cut down through the basalt and granite, creating the canyon seen today.

A speed boat tour down the canyon and the Grijalva river leads to many beautiful sights. Lucky boaters might see some of the native American Crocodiles. One particular sight that any visitor would be lucky to see is what happens to the canyon during the rainy season. Nearby streams and trickles of water all lead down into the canyon and the sides of the canyon cascade with beautiful waterfalls.

California Natives enjoy boat trip through Mexico's Sumidero Canyon.
California Natives enjoy the tropical scenery and wildlife as they tour Mexico's Sumidero Canyon by speed boat.

The indigenous group modern Chiapans are descended from is the Maya. It is only a small part of the Maya empire that once was, but thanks to the state’s powerful cultural identity and independence, they have never felt really bound to the rest of Mexico.

The California Native’s tours of Chiapas include a speed boat tour through this beautiful canyon.

Images of the World: The Weavers

Over the more than 25 years that The California Native has been traveling the world, we have accumulated a large gallery of photos that we have taken around the globe. I thought it might be fun if we arranged a series of them by subject. So here is the first in our series of Images of the World.

I took this photo of a Tarahumara lady with a shy smile, weaving a basket in Mexico’s Copper Canyon. In Mexico's Copper Canyon, a Tarahumara lady weaves a basket.
A weaver in Thailand concentrates on her work in spite of the tourist (my wife) taking her photo. A village lady in Thailand, weaves cloth while a tourist takes a photo.
In a small village in the Mexican state of Chiapas, a pretty young girl laughs as she weaves. In Mexico's state of Chiapas, a smiling lady weaves hand-made cloth.
A man in the remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, prepares fiber for weaving. In the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, a man prepares fiber for weaving.
In Myanmar (Burma), a member of the Long Neck Paduang, a sub-group of the Karen hill tribes, is not inconvenienced by the neck rings she has worn since her youth. In Myanmar (Burma), a tribal lady weaves cloth.