The official name of San Cristóbal’s leafy central plaza is Plaza de 31 de Marzo, but most people refer to it as either El Zócalo or the parque central (central park). During the colonial era the plaza served several functions: a public market, a water-gathering spot (a large fountain supplied most of the town’s water), a place to collect taxes, and a place of punishment during the years of the conquest. Hundreds of years later, in 1994, Zapatista rebels stormed the plaza and adjoining Palacio Municipal (City Hall).
Today, the plaza serves mostly as a tranquil refuge, with wide walkways, green iron benches, large shade trees, and a two-story central bandstand where you can enjoy coffee and light fare along with nightly live marimba band. Rallies and demonstrations are still held here sometimes, but unruly gatherings are extremely rare.
In the plaza and in front of the cathedral, expect to be approached by Chamulan women and children selling hand-woven bracelets, belts, and shawls. Their prices are unbelievably low, and even a small purchase seems greatly appreciated.
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition