It's doubtful whether any foreigners have made as much of an impact on San Cristóbal as did the European owners of this home-turned-library-museum-restaurant-hotel. Built as a seminary in 1891, the handsome 22-room house was purchased by Frans and Gertrude (Trudi) Blom in 1950. He was a Danish archaeologist, she a Swiss social activist; together they created the Institute for Ethnological and Ecological Advocacy, which carries on today. It got its name, Na Bolom (House
of the Jaguar), from the Lacandón Maya with whom Trudi worked: Blom sounds like the Mayan word for jaguar. Both Frans and Trudi were great friends of the indigenous Lacandón, whose way of life they documented. Their institute is also dedicated to reforestation.
Both Bloms are deceased, but Na Bolom showcases their small collection of religious treasures. Also on display are findings from the Classic Mayan site of Moxviquil (pronounced mosh-vee-keel), on the outskirts of San Cristóbal, and objects from the daily life of the Lacandón. Trudi's bedroom contains her jewelry, collection of indigenous crafts, and wardrobe of embroidered dresses. A research library holds more than 10,000 volumes on Chiapas and the Maya. Tours are conducted daily in English and Spanish at 11:30 and 4:30.
Across from the museum, the Jardín del Jaguar (Jaguar Garden) store sells crafts and souvenirs. Look for the thatch hut, a replica of local Chiapan architecture. It consists of a mass of woven palm fronds tied to branches, with walls and windows of wooden slats, and high ceilings that allow the heat to rise. The shop here sells Lacandón crafts, as well as black-and-white photos taken by Trudi.
Revenue from Na Bolom supports the work of the institute. You can arrange for a meal at Na Bolom even if you don't stay at the hotel. In addition, the staff is well connected within San Cristóbal and can arrange tours to artisans' co-ops, villages, and nature reserves that are off the beaten path.