Pueblo Magico Comitán de Domíngues
The Mexican Tourism Board has given the designation Pueblo Magico to a number of cities around the country.
It is an honor indicating a place of exceptional beauty, historical significance, and tourist opportunities that provide a “magical” experience.
Most of them are colonial cities, built during the first 150 years of Spanish occupation. Some, like San Cristóbal de las Casas and Comitán de Domíngues in Chiapas, were founded a mere 50 years after Cortes invaded Mexico.
Comitán is lower in altitude than San Cristóbal where I lived periodically for nine months. Its climate is warmer, but it sits at a high enough elevation that air conditioning isn’t needed.
Until 1915, Comitán was known as Comitán de las Flores (of the flowers). It was renamed after its native son, Dr. Belisario Domíngues, was murdered for speaking out against the Huerta government. They cut off his tongue as a symbolic warning to others. President Huerta himself participated in the execution.
It is still a place of flowers. Bougainvilleas are everywhere, along with many varieties of flowering trees. Every little garden glimpsed through open gates is a showcase of color.
Unlike San Cristóbal, Comitán does not have a large foreign tourist draw, and thus has been spared the negative side of massive tourism. There are no wandering street vendors who thrust goods in your face while you sit in a cafe eating lunch. There are almost no beggars.
Shoeshine boys wander the streets with their little wooden boxes, and people sit in the shade in the Zócalo with packets of gum and candy for sale. Little stands sell tacos, belts and knock-off handbags. As a tourist, time spent in Comitán is tranquil, without that constant bombardment to buy-give-buy.
Comitán appears to have a forward-thinking city government. Many modern sculptures by some very famous Mexican artists dot the city and Zócalo. Belisario Domingues’ daughter donated her home for a modern art museum. His own home is a historical museum.
And there isa good selection of artifacts from the nearby Mayan sites of Tenam Puente and Chinkultic in the archeological museum. Housed in that same building is a decent library with a large Internet center and several colorful murals.
Around the Zócalo are small restaurants, side by side, competing with each other. Their menus are identical. The competition is between the handsome young men who do their best to persuade you to eat at their particular establishment. And a good coffee shop sits across the street from the parroquia with modern murals gracing its interior.
A few blocks from the Zócalo is a church frequented by local indigenous people. Its large plaza is the center of many celebrations and fairs. Iglesia de San Caralampio is painted bright yellow and almost always filled with the sweet scent of thousands of flowers.
Comitán is a center of commerce with many businesses lining the carretera, the main highway through town. It has many old and some modern hotels. In addition to local traditional foods excellent ethnic restaurants can also be found.
I ate at Cucina Italia, recently opened by an Italian-Canadian and his Mexican wife. The lasagna was as good as any I had ever eaten, even in Italy. He makes the pastas daily, and the sauces were created from fresh tomatoes picked that morning.
The people of Comitán are friendly and courteous. The pace is slow. The desire to enjoy each moment in life is a measure of the local character. It is a lovely city, well deserving of its designation: Pueblo Magico.
Editor’s note: Sherry Hardage lives in Los Alamos and has been traveling solo in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe since she retired from Honeywell in 2009. She is a photographer, writer, and guide who organizes tours of Chiapas, Mexico through her website: www.mexadventures.com. Hardage welcomes comments via email: firstname.lastname@example.org