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America: Mexico

States of Chiapas

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Chiapas
 

Rivers, valleys, mountains, rain forest, caves, lakes, waterfalls, seashores, salt marches and plains make up 73877 Sq. Km of Southern state of Chiapas. Bordering on Tabasco in North, Pacific Ocean in South, Guatemala in East, and Veracruz and Oaxaca in West, it is one of Mexico's loveliest and most interesting states.

There is wide range of climates in the state; rain forest is hot and humid, while mountains can be intensely cold. The average temperature is 20 degree C, with maximum of 40C in Lacandon Jungle and Pacific coastal plain, and absolute minimum of 0C in Southeast of Sierra Madre.

Hot climate and heavy rainfall have produced some of the thickest rain forest in Mexico; vast areas that are the home of many species of reptiles, big cats, monkeys, insects and birds - quetzals, macaws, wild turkeys and great curassows - as well as deer, wild boars, peccaries and tapirs.

Vegetation includes trees such as kapok or ceiba, rubber, palms, bombax, pink poui and different types of oak, while plants and flowers like orchids, vanilla and edible piper abound.

The principal chain of mountains is "Sierra Madre de Chiapas", with "Tacana Volcano", the highest in the state, rising to 1093 meters above sea level. Another volcano is "Chichon" or "Chichonal" in North, which stands 1250 m above sea level.

Among the main rivers running through the state are "Grijalva", which flows through the impressive Sumidero Canyon, Ostuta, Rio Grande de Chiapa (a tributary of Grijalva), Suchiate, in part a natural border between Mexico and Guatemala, Coatan and Usumacinta. In all more than 100 rivers belonging to four systems crisscross the state in all directions, accounting for %33 of all the rivers in Mexico. These waters have created several falls, such as the beautiful Agua Azul, Aguacero (fed by underground river) and Misol-ha.

Large dams and hydroelectric complexes have been built in Chiapas to harness the power of the state's waters. These include Chicoasen, with its 260 m high retaining wall; La Angostura, built in 70s; Penitas and Malpaso, fed by Grijalva, which holds 12900 million cubic meters of water. Altogether the storage capacity amounts to more than 45000 million cubic meters.

Lagoons are yet another beauty of Chiaps: Catazaja, teeming with fish; Miramar in Lacandon jungle measuring 40 km round, and the famous Lagoons of Montebello in center of the state. These lie in 7000 hectares of pine and oak forest set aside as Natural Park in 1959, because of the wealth of flora and fauna and different colors of waters. Pojoj, Tzicao, Esmeralda, Canada, Ensueno, Bosque Azul and Agua Tibia are just some of the 50 or so lakes in the region.

After conquering central Mexico the Spanish pushed South after 1522, Were the captains Pedro de Alvarado, Gonzalo de Sandoval and Luis Marin reconnoitered the territory.

Zoque town of Quecholac was the first to experience the meeting of two completely different worlds. Shortly afterwards, Pedro de Portacarrero arrived from the direction of Guatemala and subjected Tojolabals and Tzeltals.

Many ethnic groups speaking variety of languages lived side by side in the region at that time; Chiapanecos or Soctones in central part of the valley; Zoques in West of the plateau; Tzotzils in the center; Tzeltals in Eastern Highlands; Tojolabals between Chiapa river valley and rain forest, and Choles, who lived in the forest itself. Some of these tribes were also conquered by Aztecs in pre-Hispanic times.

The conquistador Diego de Maraziegos, who arrived with another expedition, fought rebellion of the warlike Chiapa Indians in 1526 and 1527. These, rather than surrender, threw themselves into the river running through Sumidero Canyon.

On March 31, 1528, Mazariegos founded the town of Villa Real de Chiapa, today San Cristobal de las Casa, which became the first state capital. Before this, valley was known as Hueyzacatlon, meaning "next to the long grass".

The town's coat of arms, now the emblem of the state, was granted by Charles V of Spain in 1535. A year later, it was renamed Ciudad Real and finally, after having other names such as San Cristobal de los Llanos and Villa Viciosa, it became San Cristobal de las Casas in honor of the priest Bartolome de las Casas, defender of Indians. In 1892, the capital was transferred to Tuxtla Gutierrez.

The spiritual conquest of Chiaps, perhaps even more difficult than the military one, was at first carried out by priests belonging to the order of Our Lady of Mercy, who arrived in the region in 1537, and from 1545 onward by Dominicans. The latter were in much closer contact with the natives in process of conversion, creating towns and convents all over the state. Evidence of this religious activity still exists in the form of churches and convents in towns such as Tecpatan, Chiapa de Corzo, Copainala, Copanagustla and San Cristobal de las Casas.

 

 

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