The southern most state in Mexico is Chiapas. It has one of the prettiest ports, in my opinion, along the Mexican coast. Many times we pull in between the tankers and container/cargo ships in industrial ports. This port was upgraded from a small fishing & agricultural centre, hoping to attract cruise ships as well as the heavy cargo ships to increase business. As with many of the towns and cities we have visited throughout this area, there was a strong police presence. Here, it is mostly because of the illegal border crossings from Central America, through this area, along with drugs.
Although education is free, 50% of the children do not go to school because their parents take them to work with them in agricultural production areas. They grow a lot of mangos here, with 70% of the crop going to the US, Canada and Japan. They also have the small bananas, coffee, sugar and chia.
While in the capital of Chiapas, Tapachula, we were treated to a lovely cultural experience. A beautiful lady in native costume dancing to the music of the marimba. The marimba is a musical instrument, made of rosewood or cedar & mahogany, expensive to buy, around ten thousand dollars each, and said to have originated in Mexico and Guatemala. We were also entertained by a group of dancers in full costume portraying a Mayan dance. It was all very colourful and interesting.
The rainy season here is from August to December. Since it is their summer now, it was a very hot sunny day as we travelled from Tapachula and out to Izapa to one of the oldest pre-Columbian Mayan archaeological sites not far from town which was inhabited between 1250BC and AD1200. Many believe this may be the site of origin of the sacred Mayan Calendar. They are still doing research on this.
The 100 degree temperature and no shade, made the archaeological site somewhat uncomfortable, and I think we all were happy to get back on our air conditioned bus.
I was surprised to learn there was much diverse immigration to this area. First the Chinese came to help build a railroad from here to Mexico City around 1842, and today our guide told us the Chinese own many of the buildings in the downtown area, and the national food here is ‘almost’ Cantonese. (I found it interesting how the Chinese always seem to be the people building railroads back in the late 1800s – in Canada & the USA and now here in Mexico & Central America.)
But there was also a large European influx in the late 1880s, German, Spanish, Lebanese and also Japanese. Our guide whose name was Tony, was of German heritage, and actually spoke some German. Many got here throughout the area because of the gold rush in the USA. They either arrived in California and found they were too late and moved on, or they just got tired and decided to settle in other areas. They came by boat, on horseback and on foot. They came for a better life. The museum has a large exhibit about the people who came to this part of the world at that time and helped develop these countries.
We say good bye to Mexico today and will head further south. Next stop…. Guatemala!