Temple in Palenque
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
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
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.