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Chiapas Portal


An innumerable natural beauties, arqueological vestiges, colonial cities, pintoresque villages, live cultures, traditions and modernity are part of the great cultural land that Chiapas represents. Besides, is the entrance door to Central America and the beginning of the Mayan Route (Ruta Maya). Its land extension is of 75,634 km2 and locates it in the eigth larger state of Mexico.

Located in the southeast of Mexico, Chiapas offers an infinte choices for the traveler thet searches for an authentic and unforgettable experience. Chiapas has the necessary characteristics to satisfy the tourist avid for new cultural experiences and the lover of nature.

When the Spaniards step into Chiapas land leaded by Captain Diego de Mazariegos, the enchantment of these prodigious lands seducted them.

Chiapa de Corzo, also known as Indian Chiapa (Chiapa de los Indios) and San Cristobal de Las Casas, Royal City of Chiapa (Ciudad Real de Chiapa) or Spaniard Chiapa (Chiapa de los Españoles); were the first cities founded in the Chiapas Province.

Colonial Cities

There are a lot of cities and towns that are true testimony of the spanish past, this fact is due to its colonial buildings of great historic value.

San Cristobal de Las Casas, a colonial Mexican jewel, is located in a zone known as Los Altos de Chiapas in which tzeltales and tzotziles indians are settled, these indians are considered direct heirs of the Mayan culture. Due to this fact, this city of San Cristobal is an important center of cultural and commercial exchange.

Some of the important constructions are the cathedral with its baroque front structure and the ex-convent and temple of Santo Domingo de Guzman mainly. Since its foundation in 1528 until 1892 this was the capital state and actually is a rich artictic place which combines the colonial, baroque, plateresque and neoclassic styles. The great colonial image of the downtown has survived centuries because of its outnumbered historic monuments and its cultural manifestations due to the fact that the indian popultaion and the mestizos lived together besides all the foreigners from europe, who had turn San Cristobal de Las Casas in their new home, giving it a cosmopolitan touch with its placid and traditional spirit.

Chiapa de Corzo developed in the margins of the Grijalva river or Rio Grande (Big River), this place was the plato of one of the most dramatic passages in the history of this state. The chiapanecas, who were settled there when the Spaniards arrived, proved to be an indomit and brave race, they chose to die by throwing themselves into the waters of Grijalva river from the top of the high Peñon de Tepechtia (Tepechtia Cliff) -today Cañon del Sumidero (El Sumidero Canyon)- before living under the orders of these conquerors of the Old World. In this city we can find the downtown portals, La Pila and the architectonic group formed by the temple and the ex-convent of Santo Domingo.

When the religious order of the Dominics arrived to Chiapas on the XVIth century, it established its ranches in the region known as Los Llanos (Plains) near to Comitan de Dominguez city, located near the Antiguo Camino Real (Old Royal Road). This road followed the trace of the old precolombine vias that communicated the Province of Chiapas with Guatemala.

Comitan de Dominguez, craddle of the Chiapas independence, has a historic downtown which has kept its traditional views with old houses and beautiful colonial monuments such as the Church of Santo Domingo with a sober front structure and architectonic morisque influence. The Comitan Plaza is surrounded by the Cultural Center Rosario Castellanos with its beautiful patio of great wood columns. The Municipal presidency was consturucted in the old city hall where the independence act was signed in 1824. The Junchavin Theater has a beautiful neoclassic style front structure.

Besides these marvellous cities. Another example of the religious architecture of the 16th century are the colonial temples of the Zoque Route (Ruta Zoque) in places such as Tecpatan, San Fernando, Copanaguastla, Copainala, Coapilla, Rayon, Tapalapa and Chapultenango which form the province of the Zoquez, cultural group waiting to be declared as human kind patrimony by UNESCO.

Tuxtla Guitierrez and the Modernity

The adventure of knowing Chiapas may beggin in the capital state, Tuxtla Gutierrez, from there you can go anywhere in Chiapas. Thanks to the freeway Tuxtla Gutierrez-Mexico City, the communication with the center of the country has become very good.

Tuxtla Gutierrez is a mix of traditions and modernity. It has the San Marcos Cathedral, dominic foundation of the XVI century and the Conventions Center and Poliforum Chiapas, designed by the famous architect Abraham Zabludovsky, which has the necessary infrastructure and installations for congresses, conventions, fairs and successful expositions.

Main home of the soccer football team Jaguares de Chiapas (Chiapas Jaguars), in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the fans can enjoy thier favorite sports in the modern stadium Victor Manuel Reyna.

In this city, on of the main visits have to include: the Miguel Alvarez del Toro Zoo (ZOOMAT), unique in latin-america because it includes endemic fauna such as the jaguar, peacock, quetzal, pheasant, tapir, badger and coati among other species; the Regional Museum of Chiapas, with one of the richest archaeological collections in the country mainly formed by the olmeca, mayan, zoque and chiapaneca cultures; the Garden Park La Marimba, with its night concerts of regional music which take place daily; the Handcraft Institute (Instituto de Artesanias), which exhibits and offers a wide selection of invaluable Chiapas handcraft; the Cultural center Jaime Sabines, which its name was given in honor to the Chiapaneco poet born in 1926 in this city and has been one of the most important writters that Mexico has given the world in the 20th century.

Archaeological Sites

The Mayan Culture left not only to Chiapas but to the human kind an invaluable cultural, scientific, artistic, historic and arquitectonic legacy; such as the cities –as today arqueological zones- of Palenque, Bonampak, Yaxchilan, Tonina, Tenam Puente, Chinkultic and Izapa to mention some of them.

Palenque, a mayan metropoli that was developed in the middle of the jungle, was a city of powerful rulers this happened during the 4th and the 8th centuries of our times. There are espectacular buildings such as the Temple of the Inscriptions (Templo de las Inscripciones) in which the archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier discovered in 1949 the Pakal's tomb and the Palace. Palenque has been decreed as national park and declared human kind patrimony by UNESCO.

Bonampak, also known as the city of the painted walls, is important because of the wall paintings of Building I were traces of men and women, musicians, dancers, warriors and fantastic beings participate in ceremonies and battles.

Yaxchilan, name that means Green Stones, is located near the Usumacinta river in the borderline with Guatemala. It is important because of the plenty inscriptions in its steles wich converts this city in one of the most important holders of historic records of the mayan culture.

In the Ocosingo valley, Tonina is important because of its architectonic construction and its importance resides in the fact of having been an estrategic military place that played an important role in the political balance of the area.

Chinkultic in Comitan, is important because the city is built on a series of calcareous hills and in the middle of three important water deposits: The Blue Cenote, and the Cahnujabab and Tepancuapan lagoons.

Tenam Puente is located on an elevation were the low zones of Comitan are. Its strategic position in the route that communicates de Altos de Chiapas with Guatemala, allowed it to have acces to important commercial nets, and its importance is due that it represents the trasition between the classic and post classic periods of the Chiapas history and archaeology.

Izapa, in the coast of the Pacific, was important because of the trade of imported obsidian and cacao. Also, it was the biggest civilian and religious center in the pacific coast.

Natural Resources

The nature and extreme sport lovers can find in Chiapas the best place to do several eco-touristic activities at the same time they visit the natural beauties of Mexico.

El Sumidero Canyon (Cañon del Sumidero), besides being a landmark of Chiapas, is one of the most beautiful and important geological failures in our country; its walls are almost vertical and they reach almost 1,000 meters high. This place was decreed natural park; it has an incomparable beauty and it is the headquarters of the Eco-touristic Park Sumidero Canyon, an ideal place for swimming, rappel, kayak, sight for flora and fauna, etc.

Chiapas has several protected natural areas, among these are the biosphere reserves and they are considered as human kind patrimony.

Montes Azules (Blue Mounts), in the Lacandona Jungle (Selva Lacandona), possesses the biggest hidrologic zone in the country; La Sepultura (The Grave) has strange mountain high points which are considered the most beutiful in Mexico.

The highest plantations of mangroves trees of the american pacific are located in the biosphere reserve known as La Encrucijada (The Ambush), that besides is the headquarters of La Concepcion (The Conception) camp park, an important protection and monitoring center of the sea turtle. The tour over the plantations of mangroves trees is a worth while experience and the species that live there are from this specific zone.

One of the most importan cave complexes in the world, the Cañon Rio La Venta (La Venta River Canyon), is in the Selva El Ocote Reserve (Torch Pine Jungle Reserve). In this zone the tourists can practice espeleism, cannoing and rafting. The Sima de las Cotorras (the Parrot Deep Cavern) is located near this area and it is ideal for the practice of escalade and rappel besides admiring the rupestrial paintings.

El Triunfo (The Triumph) is characterized to have fog woods and tropical jungles as shelter of several fauna and flora species in danger of extintion such as the quetzal, which feathers were appreciated in the prehispanic times. This marvellous place is great to practice bird sighting and making ornitology studies. Finally, the Reserva de la Biosfera Volcan Tacana (Tacana Volcano Biosphere Reserve) that has the highest top of Chiapas and the southeast of Mexico with its 4,100 meter over sea level, is considered to be the main place for the practice of andinism (andinismo) in the state.

Chiapas has an incomparable hidrological richness; 30% of the superficial water of the entire country is concentered here, thanks to the ditches of the Grijalva, Usumacinta, Lacantun and Jatate rivers and the La Angostura, Malpaso, Peñitas and Chicoasen water dams considered as the biggest and most important hidroelectric complex in Mexico; as interest data is important to mention that the water cortain of the last one occupies the third place worldwide because of its hight. The Lagunas de Montebello (Montebello Lagoons), Colon and Miramar aalso are part of this richness giving place to ten hidrological basins being Grijalva the most important in the country.

The first protected space by decree in Chiapas in 1959 was the Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello (Montebello Lagoons National Park), it is formed by 56 turcoise water lakes in the middle of a vegetation of pine groves. Also you can navigate in canoe, horse backriding y practice landscape photography.

The Miramar Lagoon –one of Mexico's most beautiful one- is located in the heart of the Lacandon Jungle. Besides its extraordinary natural beauty, this place simbolizes the resistance of the old lacandon people to the spanish conqueror during the colonial times. The activities that are good here are: camping, canoe rides and trekking, among others.

The blue of the water, the green of the vegetation, the constant breeze and the inhexaustible water sound make the Blue Water waterfalls one of the most impressive and unforgettable places in Chiapas.

In the tempested waters of the Cuilco river, near to Tapachula, rafting can be practiced.

Ethnic groups

Chiapas has a population of about 3,921,000; approximatelly 1,000,000 people are indians from the ethnic groups of the tzeltal, tzotzil, chol, tojolabal, zoque, mame, mocho, lacandon and cakchiquel; this fact converts Chiapas in the second entity with the bigger indian population after Oaxaca. The ethnic groups tzotzil and tzeltal, proud descentdants of the mayan culture, live together with the modern society creating a unique cultural mix in Mexico.

The popular art, gastronomy and tha particular parties of each ethnic group give the different places an especial touch. One of the most important festivities is the Chamula carnival that starts the weekend before the Ash Wednesday in the town of San Juan Chamula.

Gastronomy

Chiapas has a great culinary tradition as product of the cultural fusion between spanish people and indians. The Chiapas gastronomy is close together with the prehispanic past; with corn as main element to make tamales, the Chiapas dish by excellence and a fundamental part of celebrations. The tamales are made with different recipes as: chipilin, mole, cambray and pictes among others.

Chiapas is also known for its milk products such as cheese and sour cream of first quality that are part of a several variety of dishes. The sausages such as the butifarra (a kind of sausage made in Catalonia) and the choice pork sausage are made in San Cristobal de Las Casas and Comitan.

In order to enjoy the food is absolutely necessary to drink delicios and fesh beverages such as the tascalate and the pozol. The tascalate is made of corn, cacao and achiote, and the pozol is made with corn and cacao.

Finally, you should never forget a cup of the aromatic Chiapas' black coffe which quality is worldwide known.

Parties and Traditions

Parties are made all over the year in Chiapas, because the different cultures it has. With no doubt the most pompous celebrations are the Fiesta Grande of Chiapa de Corzo (Big Party of Chiapa de Corzo) in honor to San Sebastian and the Chamula Carnival in San Juan Chamula.

A colorful parade of parachicos (dancers with wood masks, ixtle wigs and color sarapes) and chiapanecas (women dressed with the traditional black outfit with flowers) goes all around the city in the third week of January. The celebration is made in honor of the benefactor Maria de Angulo who supported the population in times of poverty. The poarty ends with a naval combat at the Grijalva river the night of the 21st of the same month.

In San Jaun Chamula, the party ends during the Kin Tajimultik, the most known indian party of Chiapas. During the Chamula Carnival special masses are given and masked men parades are done; on Tuesday of carnivals purification ceremony is done, also some dances that describe past mayan legends take place.

In the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez the Marimba festival takes place in honor to the Chiapas musical instrument, the marimba (Xylophone). To this important Festival people from Mexico and from all over the world assist.

The marimba is an instrument that arises from the mix of the indian in Chiapas and foreigners, all of this comes from Africa and Europe with the touch and Chiapas idiosyncracy.

Other important events are: The Spring and Peace Fair in San Cristobal de Las Casas at the end of Holy Week; and in July, the Rosario Castellanos Culture and Art Festival in honor to this important writter; the Baroque Cervantino Festival in San Cristobal at the end of October and during the first days of November. In this festival, the entire historic center of the city turns into a cultural space for the local and international talents who develop their different artistic expressions in temples or small squares.

Each year in December, the Traditional Chiapas Fair takes place in Tuxtla Gutierrez, this is the most important commercial fair in the capital state. The Tapachula International Fair takes place in March, also in this month the Panamerican car Race starts in Tuxtla Gutierrez to finish in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.

Handcrafts

The Chiapas popular art is diverse such as its people. Numerous handcraft manifestations are found in Chiapas. The manufacture of lac, tecnique that comes from prehispanic times, the carving of the amber –characteristic gem of Chiapas-, the textile manufacture, the manufacture of tin toys, the silver and gold work with filigrane, wood and stone carving, pottery, saddlery and basket factory are some of the most important handcraft labors in the state.

Chiapas Coast

The Chiapas Coast is famous fro its beach places such as Puerto Arista and Boca del Cielo in Tonala and Playa Linda in Tapachula. Here, a lot of beach sports can be practiced, rides in motorcycles and in boats. Besides this, Puerto Chiapas will be restored as a new cruising station in the Mexican Pacific.

Besides its beaches and ports, this zone is recognized because Tapachula is the main border city in the south of Mexico. Since the 19th centuty its history has been joined with the economic process of the region due to the importance of coffee and cacao plantations; this attracted european and asiatic immigrants enriching the culture of the place.

This immigrants innitiated 100 years ago the adventure of the coffee which is possible to know in the Soconusco coffee ranches. The landscape, the rivers and the mix of mexican and european architecture gave place to this extraordinary ranches built in the low parts of the Sierra Madre of Chiapas; the Coffee Route is one of the most fascinating experiences of the alternate tourism in Chiapas.

The Chiapas coffee is parf of the history and fusion of cultures. Thanks to the effort of the Chiapas coffee growers, 451 thousand tons of this aromatic coffee are produced each year earning 122 million dollars.

Chiapas is a great coffee producer and exporter, the quality of this organic coffee is known worldwide and it is certified by the Organic Crop Improvement Association and the Institut fur Marktokologie.

Chiapas has known to take advantage of the modernity of its buildings with the different cultural manifestations; the proximity of its towns and cities and the hospitality of its people offer an unforgettable experience for the traveler.

This is Chiapas, a natural authentic state.

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