Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

A Cup of Chiapas Culture: In Addition to Its Colorful History and an Abundance of Natural Resources, This Region of Mexico Also Produces a Wide Variety of Eco-Friendly Coffee

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

A Cup of Chiapas Culture: In Addition to Its Colorful History and an Abundance of Natural Resources, This Region of Mexico Also Produces a Wide Variety of Eco-Friendly Coffee

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

MEXICAN WRITER ROSARIO CASTELLANOS describes the tropical forest of her native Chiapas as a mysterious paradise. Indeed, as the beautiful landscape of this Mexican "Coffee Route" state unfolds before us, paradise does seem an apt description. Chiapas is a place of green and sun, of rivers and starry skies; it is full of the mystery of nature, living and exuberant.

The Maya once inhabited a large part of the region. They knew about everything from hydraulic systems to the natural wealth of the jungle, and they built some of the area's most beautiful cities: Palenque, Bonampak, Yaxchilan, Izapa, Toning, Chinkultic, Lacaja, and Tenan Puente. When the Mayan civilization "collapsed," the sacred centers were abandoned and their splendor remained hidden in the jungle. Years later, the Spanish met fierce resistance from the indomitable descendents of the early Maya. Legend has it that the indigenous peoples of Chiapas threw themselves into the great river canyon rather than surrender.

The name Chiapas comes from Chiapan, which meals "waters below the mountain." In 1528 the conquistadors used the name "Chiapas" in the founding of two primary cities: Chiapa de los Indios (known today as Chiapa de Corzo) and Chiapa de los Espanoles (now San Cristobal de las Casas). The town of San Marcos de Tuxtla, founded in the late sixteenth century, is now called Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of the state. On September 14, 1824, after the wars of independence, the people of Chiapas announced their freedom from the Spanish crown and formally became a part of Mexico.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Located in southeastern Mexico, Chiapas borders the country of Guatemala and the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Tabasco. It is a region with great geographic diversity. From the air, we can see the ocean, the lovely Pacific coast, mango orchards, and the blue-green mountains of the Sierra Madre. With an area of just over 29,000 square miles, Chiapas is Mexico's eighth largest state. It is also one of the largest producers of coffee, mango, banana, and cacao in the country.

As our plane descends, the imposing Tacana volcano appears. Tacana means "house of fire" in the indigenous language. This lava-capped peak, 13,425 feet high, is the highest point in Chiapas and has recently become a protected area with the status of "biosphere reserve." In accordance with an 1882 treaty, the dividing line between Mexico and Guatemala goes right over the summit of the Tacana volcano.

In the Tapachula airport, a soldier with a ski-mask over his face is a reminder of the days of Subcomandante Marcos, but he is actually a member of the national security force. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) that rose up in Chiapas in the 1990s signed peace accords with the government in 1996, and things have been quiet since then. The music of the marimba, a traditional instrument in the region, takes our minds away from the years of guerrilla war and announces that Tapachula is preparing for its annual festival, complete with parades, music, regional products, bullfights, and delicious food.

The so called "Coffee Route" starts to take shape about an hour from Tapachula on a mountainous road in the Soconusco area. After we have gone up in elevation nearly 5,000 feet, we begin to see coffee fields surrounded and protected by tall trees.

Coffee, originally from southeast Asia and eastern Africa, was taken to Europe and then later to America where it prospered. Chiapas itself has more than 400 coffee farms and communal coffee cooperatives that grow nearly 568,000 acres of coffee, generating thousands of jobs as well as income for the state. In 1846, Jeronimo Manchinelli brought 1,500 coffee seedlings from Guatemala and planted them on his farm, La Chacara. He was followed by another early coffee grower, Carlos Gris, who planted more coffee trees on his farm, Majagual. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.