Chiapas and Tabasco Feature
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Chiapas and Tabasco Background
As early as 1000 BC, Chiapas was in the domain of the Maya, along with Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and much of Mexico. The Maya controlled the region for centuries, constructing colossal cities like Palenque, Toniná, and Yaxchilán in Chiapas. These cities flourished in the 7th and 8th centuries, then were mysteriously abandoned. The rain forest quickly reclaimed its land.
In 1526 the Spaniards, under Diego de Mazariegos, defeated the Chiapan people in a bloody battle. Many were said to have leaped into the Cañón del Sumidero rather than submit to the invaders. Mazariegos founded a city called Villareal de Chiapa de los Españoles two years later. For most of the colonial era, Chiapas, with its capital at San Cristóbal, was a province of Guatemala. Lacking the gold and silver of the north, it was of greater strategic than economic importance.
Under Spanish rule, the region's resources became entrenched in the encomienda system, in which wealthy Spanish landowners forced the locals to work as slaves. "In this life all men suffer," lamented a Spanish friar in 1691, "but the Indians suffer most of all." The situation improved only slightly through the efforts of Bartolomé de las Casas, the bishop of San Cristóbal, who in the mid-1500s protested the torture and massacre of the local people; these downtrodden protested in another way, murdering priests and other ladinos (Spaniards) in infamous uprisings.
Mexico, Guatemala, and the rest of New Spain declared independence in 1821. Chiapas remained part of Guatemala until electing by plebiscite to join Mexico on September 14, 1824—the date is still celebrated throughout Chiapas as the Día de la Mexicanidad (Day of Mexicanization). In 1892, because of San Cristóbal's allegiance to the Royalists during the War of Independence, the capital was moved to Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
Tabasco was dominated between 1200 and 600 BC by the Olmec, who left behind the massive heads found in Villahermosa and the surrounding area. Cortés landed here in 1519, quickly subduing the local people and taking control of the region. The Maya continued to resist Spanish domination, but they were finally defeated in 1540. One of Mexico's smaller states—only 20,853 square km (12,960 square mi)—Tabasco was of minor importance until the beginning of the 20th century, when oil was discovered off its coast in the Gulf of Mexico. You won't find much evidence of Tabasco's turbulent past today; the spirit that prevails here, at least in modern Villahermosa, Tabasco's capital, is one of commerce.
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