San Cristóbal’s ‘Green’ Museum; Na Bolom
Na Bolom’s homepage caught my eye. Stating that it was museum as well as a hotel, each of Na Bolom’s unique rooms were filled with museum artefacts; from the clay decorations on the mantelpiece to the furniture in the room. Having an affliction for bohemian-style travelling this place intrigued me… Never in my years of travel have I slept inside a museum.
Na Bolom’s rich an interesting history is apparent in every corner. The place has the feel as if a famous person had once written a book here. Incredibly peaceful, within a setting which is simply inspirational. An extensive blooming garden, every piece of furniture an antique, screaming with stories from a long time past. If you want to stay in an interesting place that will surprise you at every turn, this is it. Casa Na Bolom would be a perfect place to stay if you are interested in Mexican history, archaeology, anthropology and antiques or are wanting a quiet getaway. The Wifi is fast, and the centre of town only a short walk away, albeit uneven and cobblestoned. Almost all rooms have a cosy wood fire and a desk to work at. Perfect for escaping the cold mountain air.
Essentially this is the Museum of Frans and Trudy Blom – two exceptionally interesting explorers who spent their life protecting the culture and heritage of the surrounding Mayan regions – and the work they did. The museum also supports an inspiration of projects within the communities including Heritage and Culture, Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Community Health programs. And to top it all off – any profits made by Na-Bolom go straight back into the local communities. This is eco-tourism at its most impressive.
I strongly advise that upon your arrival you learn more about the history of the surrounding area and immerse yourself in the Blom’s story, after this Casa Na Bolom becomes all the more magical. If you decide to stay here, you can either have a quick tour of the grounds with one of the Spanish speaking staff. Or, if you speak only English, request to watch the 15-minute DVD about Frans and Trudy Blom.
A snippet of the mesmerising history of the Bolms below:
- Hailing from a rich aristocratic family but essentially a floater, Frans ended up in Mexico working at an oil drilling company, where he came across a love for leading the drillers not to new oil, but to archaeological sites
- After impressing a series of people he was “discovered” and due to the immense need for his skills, he was fast-tracked through Havard and immediately employed
- He had a reputation as being the Indiana Jones of Tulane, and was very impressive in the field. He excavated the Maya archaeological site of Uaxactun in Guatemala and wrote many well-regarded books
- Due to pressure from his work to raise more and more money for expeditions, he developed a drinking problem, was fired from his job and his wife left him. A friend went to his apartment one day and only found a note from Blom staying “back to Mexico, the jungle finally got his beast”
- A short time after returning to Mexico he decided he would marry Gertrude Duby after meeting her in the jungle covered head to toe in mud
- They fled the smog of Mexico City and bought the abandoned and decrepit building that is now Na Bolom and restored it
- Fans spent most of his life fighting to preserve the culture and way-of-life for Mayan people who live traditionally in the Mexican rainforest
- Gertrude, a Swiss journalist and photographer, started life with a bang when at age 16 she was a feminist left-wing socialist. Later she began to work as an anti-fascist organiser and speaker, women’s rights representative and journalist reporting on the Nazi war
- She is thought to have married her best friends brother Kurt Düby to free him from jail from the outside. She then went on to marry six more times for similar reasons
- Due to her journalistic reporting she became known to Hitler by name. Around that time her best friend was murdered in the street while Trudy was walking with her
- Trudy travelled to Paris to join the International Movement against Hitler’s Germany. She was captured there, spent time in a concentration camp and deported back to Switzerland
- She ended up in Mexico after following along a mass emigration of pacifist, communists, labor leaders, artists and Jews
- Trudy was impressed by the Mexican revolution, which came from a place of need, not intelligence. She worked alongside revolutionary people, documenting them. She was especially impressed by the Lacabon people living in the jungle near Palenque because they had never been conquered by the Spanish and lived a wholly traditional life
- She made several expeditions to visit and photograph the Lacabon people on one of which she met Frans Blom and married him
- Trudy became quite famous due to her photographs
- She lived 30 years more than her husband Frans and continued with their work of preserving the local culture in Chiapas
- In 1989 Trudy won the 500 UN award as the first conservationist
What to do in San Cristóbal
– A church that encourages smoking and drinking inside!
While you’re in San Cristobal try to organise with the Museum to head out to one of the communities to see some of the ways the Mayans live traditionally. A local well-known anthropologist, Walter F Maurice Jr (AKA Chip) and I headed out to Chamula (20-mins from San Cristóbal) where in the Church of St. John the Baptist you will be transported back to medieval Catholicism from the 1400’s mixed with a Mayan twist that is practiced every day. The church is quite magical. On the day we were there (a Monday) there were many Curing Ceremonies being practiced with Shamans. Families sat on the floor amongst pine needles (not a pew in sight) with carefully arranged candles, burning. They will offer to share a meal with the gods where they drink a strong alcoholic white-rum called Pox (pronounced Posh), eat snacks and sacrifice a chicken that will later be made into soup and shared with friends and family. If you’re interested in getting involved it’s a good idea to buy popcorn to give to the children. Many of the families will happily share their Pox with you as they are supposed to drink the entire bottle before leaving again. All of this is especially cool because you can not only drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes in the church, but it’s fine for you to interrupt the prayers – because after all everyone is just sharing a meal. The whole vibe is only complemented by the mass of merry, drunken church attendees.
To view more photos of this incredible hotel check out my Flickr Gallery.
Currency: Mexican Peso MXN
$1 USD = $16.97 MXN
I was here: November 2014