Chiapas: A Melting Pot of Culture and Unique Traditions

Chiapas is one of the most diverse and culturally rich states in Mexico. It is the cradle of indigenous ethnicities. The state has beautiful pre-Hispanic cities such as Palenque and Bonampak, Yaxchilán and Toniná; with a sacred Mayan past.

Chiapas: A Melting Pot of Culture and Unique Traditions
Sunset in the plaza of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. Photos: Sectur

Chiapas, is a melting pot where a multitude of cultural manifestations flourish, offering, to the delight of all, unrepeatable uses, customs, and unique and very own traditions. A multicultural amalgam in which the autochthonous and traditional expressions converge in harmony with the modernism of development.

An incalculable treasure is the representations included in the diverse Living Cultures that offer their exquisite gastronomy, their diverse textiles, their music and dances, and, the most precious, their great linguistic diversity. All wrapped in a religious mysticism where their ancestral origin is identified and, from a collective symbiosis, today offers diverse cultural variants deeply rooted in their communities.


The cultural richness of Palenque in terms of buildings and monuments is grandiose. In this section only an outline is given, given the characteristics of the work. From pre-Hispanic times in Mexico, there are great architectural, sculptural, and pictorial masterpieces. Examples of these are Palenque, Bonampak, and Toniná.

The archaeological zone of Palenque was declared Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO in 1987; at the time it was a great city that covered almost eight square kilometers. It is so majestic that it is known as the "City where men dared to live like gods".


Toniná is another representative archaeological site of the Classic Maya period. The discoveries that have been made in this city have revealed the military and bellicose character of the Mayas. Toniná was a military power and to this characteristic, their es - cultures, and reliefs refer. Their power was such that they defeated many other Maya cities, including Palenque.

San Cristobal de Las Casas

Called Ciudad Real during most of the colonial period, it was the capital of the Province of Chiapas; that is why art acquired its greatest splendor here. A few days after founding Chiapa de los Indios, Diego de Mazariegos ordered to move to the valley of Hueyzacatlán to found another village there, since the climate was milder there. Thus, on March 31, 1528, the Villa Real de Chiapa was founded. Along the historical center we find innumerable samples of buildings with a great architectural richness, let's see some of them.

San Cristobal Cathedral

When Villa Real was founded, a small and simple temple was built, which was replaced by the current cathedral when the Bishopric of Chiapas was created and Ciudad Real became its seat. Until the end of the XVII century, its architecture was substantially modified, achieving its monumentality. In 1680 the main façade was built (which is not the current one) and in 1686 its length was extended. Between 1718 and 1721 a new building was constructed, which is the one we know today.

Santo Domingo de Guzman Temple and Convent

This is the most representative building of the baroque style in Chiapas. The facade is the most finely worked in stucco of all those in the country. The work was in charge of Fray Pedro de la Cruz and was finished in 1551. It was rebuilt in the XVIL century, with a Solomonic Baroque style.

San Cristobal de las Casas has an ethnic presence and a rich colonial tradition.
San Cristobal de las Casas has an ethnic presence and a rich colonial tradition.


The main expressions are found in the different textiles that, in the essence of weaving, their colors, and shapes, carry an explicit message for each region. This is a generational activity, learned since childhood.

The indigenous cultural manifestations, occupy a predominant place in Chiapas; the Spanish and indigenous cultural fusion, allowed the development of an infinity of artistic expressions that spread throughout the entity, but in each place, it was given a very personalized or regionalized dye based on the customs, traditions and local uses.


The food of Chiapas, as a cultural heritage, is very rich and varied; it differs depending on the regions of the state. Each region has its characteristic dishes and, many times, they are symbols of local identities, such as Chinese food in Tapachula, ham in San Cristóbal, butifarra in Comitán, comida grande (tasajo con pepita) in Chiapa de Corzo, macabil and salpicón de cazón in Paredón, and pucsaxé of the Zoques. The sausages are typical of the high cities, such as San Cristóbal de Las Casas and Comitán, where chorizos, butifarras, shoulder hams and sausages abound.


The city of San Cristóbal is famous for its sweets; sweet potato and quince jams are made there, which are placed in small containers called "cajetas", whose lids serve as spoons. These sweets are sold at town fairs. In Chiapa de Corzo, a sweet called "suspiro" is made from yucca. The pucxinú, made with corn and honey, recalls the Zoque origins of the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

Tuxtla Gutierrez

`The first formal park in the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez was called Parque 12 de Octubre and was inaugurated by General Carlos A. Vidal, constitutional governor of the state. The date October 12th commemorates the confrontation that took place in 1924 between the supporters of the Red Party candidate and the Blue Party.

Chiapa de Corzo

Chiapa de Corzo was the first city founded by the Spaniards. In fact, on March 1, 1528 it was founded by Diego de Mazariegos and was known as Chiapa de los Indios. This city was the center of evangelization of the Chiapas people. Its development during the colony was constant, for this reason, it has a great wealth of architecture.

La Marimba

It is difficult not to find a marimba in every celebration: be it a baptism, birthday, wedding, graduation, or even a funeral farewell, among many others. Generally, the event is accompanied by a thunderous symphony of fireworks where pyrotechnics liven up the occasion.

Convent and Temple of Santo Domingo

The Dominican convent, originally built, does not exist today. The present building is from the 20th century and houses the Rosario Castellanos Cultural Center. The convent came to administer the towns of Zapaluta, Coneta, Aquespala, Izquintenango, Coapa, Utetla, Chicomuselo, Yayaguita and Comalapa. To one side of this, is located the imposing temple of Santo Domingo de Guzman dating from 1556. The façade of the temple is completely flat, of plateresque style; it also presents Arab characteristics for the battlements that are in the superior part of the façade, as well as its rectangular tower.

Comitán de Domínguez

Belisario Domínguez House Museum

In this house was born and lived the illustrious Chiapaneco Belisario Domínguez Palencia (1863-1913), a doctor and liberal politician is known for his public opposition to the politics of Victoriano Huerta. He was municipal president of his hometown, Comitán, and later senator, positions from which he defended freedom of expression.

Most of this property was inherited by his children after his death, another part was sold to an American family. This part is occupied by the museum dedicated to his life and work. In 1976 the government of Chiapas rescued the house, restoring the nineteenth-century architectural details and with the museography of Hilda Castañón Morell and the donation of the politician's belongings made by his daughter Hermila Domínguez; the museum opened its doors in 1985.

This historical and cultural space has several rooms where medical instruments, speeches, photographs, personal objects, books, and even the original furniture of the house where the universal Comiteco spent important years of his life.

Rosario Castellanos Museum

In 2017, the museum dedicated to the outstanding Mexican writer and diplomat Rosario Castellanos Figueroa, author of Balún Canán, a novel inspired by her childhood experiences in Comitán, was inaugurated in the Historic Center of Comitán de Domínguez.

Castellanos' literary legacy can be known and enjoyed in this museum that exhibits aspects of her work in which she exercised an important political criticism against racial, class, and gender differences. It offers visitors a room with the published works of the writer and an audiovisual room where some videos and audio of her poems are projected.

Church of San Caralampio

Church built in the old neighborhood of La Pila in Comitan de Dominguez in honor of San Caralampio, a martyr of the Greek church that was venerated by Don Reymundo Solis, a neighbor of the neighborhood who showed devotion to the life and work of the saint.

After an epidemic of smallpox, the veneration of the saint became popular among the neighbors, calling him protector of the bad airs. The construction of its temple took place from 1852 to 1868; it has a neoclassical style with a single nave and a single body façade that shows popular indigenous details, its roof is made of wood and tiles.

This church agglutinates one of the most important fairs of the place in honor of the saint; it is carried out from February 11 of each year, when people from the surroundings congregate in a route towards the temple, accompanied by flowers, that culminates in dances, music, and traditional food, showing an important aspect of the religiosity of the natives of Comitán.

San José Church

Built between 1910 and 1924 by the Comiteco Trinidad Abarca, dedicated to religious worship with a neo-Gothic architectural style, representative of the time, in its substitution of a small chapel damaged by the eruption of the Santa Maria volcano.

This beautiful example of religious architecture was due to the efforts of the ladies Rosa and Mercedes Román who, together with wealthy families and the population in general, contributed by donating every element that the church needed, among them the characteristic Byzantine stained glass windows placed on the sides of the central nave showing scenes from the life of Jesus Christ.

The front of the temple is of a single body with an access opening with a flan arch - flanked by a pair of attached pilasters of the smooth shaft with decorated and crowned capital, two bell towers flank the access. From the façade, there is a belfry with three bays, all with characteristics of the Gothic style.