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Estado de Chiapas
Capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez
Area 74,211 km²
Ranked 8th
(2000 census)
Ranked 8th
Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía (PRD)
Federal Deputies PRI: 11
PAN: 1
Federal Senators PRI: 2
PRD: 1
ISO 3166-2
Postal abbr.

Chiapas is a state in the southeast of Mexico. Chiapas is bordered by the states of Tabasco to the north, Veracruz to the northwest, and Oaxaca to the west. To the east Chiapas borders Guatemala, and to the south the Pacific Ocean.

Chiapas has an area of 73,887 km² (28,528 square miles). The 2003 population estimate was 4,224,800 people.

The state capital city is Tuxtla Gutiérrez; other cities and towns in Chiapas include San Cristóbal de las Casas, Comitán, and Tapachula. Chiapas is also home to the ancient Maya ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilan, Bonampak, Chinkultic, and Tonina.

Many of the people in Chiapas are poor, rural small farmers. About one third of the population are of full or predominantly Maya descent, and in rural areas many do not speak Spanish. The state suffers from the highest rate of malnutrition in Mexico, estimated to affect over 40% of the population.

Since 1994, Chiapas has been involved in an ongoing civil war or revolution. The two sides are the Mexican Government and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (the EZLN or Zapatistas). There are currently 32 "rebel autonomous zapatista municipalities" (independent Zapatista communities, MAREZ from their name in Spanish) in Chiapas.

History of Chiapas

In Pre-Columbian times Chiapas was part of the heartland of the Maya civilization.

Chiapas was conquered by Spain in the early 16th century, and became part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, administered as part of the "Kingdom of Guatemala" (what is now Central America), administered from Antigua Guatemala.

When Central America achieved its independence from Mexico in 1823, western Chiapas was annexed to Mexico. More of current day Chiapas was transferred after the disintegration of the Central American Federation in 1842, and the remainder of the current state taken from Guatemala in the early 1880s by President Porfirio Díaz.

Chiapas remained one of the parts of Mexico least affected by change, with the descendants of the Spanish continuing to exercise much control over the native Indians through such institutions as debt peonage, despite attempts by the central government to abolish those practices.

In 1868 there was an armed native rebellion, led by the Tzotzil Maya as well as Tzeltal, Tojolabal, and Ch'ol; it almost succeeded in taking San Cristóbal, then the state capital, before it was suppressed by the Mexican army.

Some people in Chiapas felt that their poor and largely agricultural area had been ignored by the government since enactment of the constitution of 1917. One of the chief complaints was that many Indian farmers were required to pay absentee landlords, despite the fact that since the 1920s the Mexican government had been promising the peasants ownership of the land they had farmed and lived on for generations. Article 27 of the 1917 constitution guaranteed indigenous peoples the right to an "ejido" or communal land. Due to pressure from Stuctural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), 85% of formerly state-owned companies were privatized. With the increasing pressure from the Mexican economic crash and from SAPs put in place by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government (under President José López Portillo and, beginning in 1994, President Carlos Salinas) agreed to repeal the article in the Constitution as a condition to joining the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which was implemented on January 1, 1994.

Such dissatisfaction led to the rise of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Zapatistas, or Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), which began an armed rebellion against the federal government on January 1, 1994 as a response to the negative implications NAFTA had for the indigenous population especially in Southern Mexico. In this year, thousands of supporters of the anti-globalization movement gathered in Chiapas, and it was from this meeting that the modern movement was born.

The group is named after the iconic revolutionary General Emiliano Zapata who fought during the Mexican Revolution in the 1910s. Zapata gained enormous respect throughout Latin America for defending the rights of the poor agricultural sector of Mexico. The Zapatistas were in principle a peaceful movement that was pushed to use the force of arms to guarantee the indigenous right to ejidos. Subcomandante Marcos, the face of the Zapatistas since he could speak many indigenous languages and had been a successful organizer for the EZLN for years, succeeded in attracting international attention, with the innovative use of modern information and communication technologies for the struggle of the indigenous peoples in Chiapas.

After the initial seizure of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, there was an armed repression by paramilitaries that was funded by the federal government to put down the organized uprising. A series of massacres followed most notably in 1997 in Acteal where refugees from indigenous communities, mainly women and children, were killed, after a National Peace Accord had been signed.

In 2000, the EZLN renewed its revolt, declaring control of a number of villages and sending a delegation into Mexico City. While the delegation was unsuccessful, the villages remain under Zapatista control, in large part due to the resilience of local villagers and their unwavering support of the group. In August 2003, the EZLN declared all Zapatista territory an autonomous government independent of Mexico. Since then, the armed EZLN has been laying low to some extent working on the government level to implement health care and educational institutions in poor rural indigenous communities that had until then been ignored and discriminated against by the central government.

Islam in Chiapas

Long a bastion of Roman Catholicism, the rites of which are frequently syncretized with indigenous practices and beliefs, in recent years southern Mexico has seen major inroads by various protestant and evangelical churches. In addition, since about 2000, Islam has also been gaining a foothold – some 300 Tzotzil Native Americans are reported to have embraced Islam in recent years, and San Cristóbal now boasts two mosques.

This development, however, is beginning to worry the Mexican government. Fearful of a cultural clash on its own territory, the government allegedly suspects the new converts of subversive activity and has already set the secret service onto the track of the Mayan Muslims.

In contrast, the converts claim to have no interest in political extremism. Rather, they belong to the Sunni, Murabitun sect that was founded by the Scotsman Ian Dallas and is seen as an offshoot of a Moroccan religious order. The Murabitun followers represent a sort of primal Islam: earning interest profits through money-lending is frowned upon, and they preach a literal interpretation of the Koran.

External links on Muslim conversions


Chiapas is subdivided into 118 municipalities (municipios). See municipalities of Chiapas


In Mormon culture, Chiapas is the most popular traditional location of the Book of Mormon land of Zarahemla, though this is not official doctrine of the LDS Church. The popular LDS tourism service, Israel Revealed, has package tours that include various spots in Chiapas.

External links

Template:States of Mexico

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