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Voyage to Chiapas – Day 5


Cañon del Sumidero


road map800px-GasBoatsDocksChiapaThe first stop of day 5 was Cañon del Sumidero which is 73 km from San Cristobal on highway 190.  The cañon (canyon) is the second most visited site in Chiapas, after Palenque.  Commercial activity in the park is solely to serve tourists.  There are two docks which provide six tour cooperatives of about 120 boats.  The boats range in size from ten to forty passengers.


P1000848469px-Coat_of_arms_of_Chiapas.svgEl Cañon del Sumidero is a narrow and deep canon just north of Tuxtla Gutiérrex in a national park.  It was formed by the Grijalva River which still runs through it.  The canon has vertical walls as high as 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) for the 13 kilometers of the narrow passage, but most vary from 200 to 700 meters tall.  The width of the canon varies from 1 to 2 kilometers.  The crest and flag of Chiapas proudly features the cañon.


P1000858The best known of the area’s many caves is the Cueva de Colores (Cave of Colors).  It is named so because of the minerals (particularly magnesium potassium) that leach from the walls producing many colors, most notably pink.  The Cueva de Colores contains a Guadalupe, usually surrounded by candles and fresh flowers.


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P1000872P1000845Most of the cañons vegetation is rainforest.  There is also abundant wildlife here.  On our voyage into the cañon we saw crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) and buzzards (Sarcorhampus papa) just to name a few.


P1000856The Chiapa settled this area fortifying the higher areas for protection from invasion.  Lead by Socton Nandalumi, the Chiapa fiercely resisted the Spanish and held out on the cliffs until 1535.  Legend has it that when the last fortification fell, the remaining Chiapa (about 5,000 men, women and children) committed mass suicide by jumping off of the 1,000 meter cliff.  When the Spaniard leader Pedro de Alvarado saw this, he backed off allowing some of the Chiapa to survive.



Chiapa de Corzo – Fiesta de los Parachicos


P1000873P1000875Chiapa de Corzo is a small city located in the Grijalva River valley.  Chiapa has been occupied since 1400 BCE.  Originally populated by ethnic Soctona, who the Aztecs called Chiapas.  These people were fierce warriors and held out to the death against all invaders.  Chiapas means water that runs under the hill, a very appropriate name given the cliffs created by the Grijalva River.  In Chiapa de Corzo the Grijalva River provides commercial transportation and a riverfront area for merchants and restaurants.


La Fiesta de los Parachicos dates back to the fifteenth century and celebrates the legend of Doña María de Angula.  Doña María was a distinguished, beautiful, rich and very Catholic Spanish lady who lived in the ancient city of Guatemala.  She came to the town of Chiapa de la Real Corona in the mid-eighteenth century in search of a famous indigenous healer.  She was searching for a cure for her small child who was the victim of a strange disease.  Dona Maria de Angulo arrived in Chiapa with her maids and servants.


P1000878P1000891When she arrived in Chiapa, she was directed to a local healer named Namandiyuguá.  After examining the boy, he instructed the mother to bathe him nine times in the waters of a small lake named Cumbujuya. After the "treatments" he was cured.  To distract and amuse the boy, a local group disguised themselves as Spaniards with masks and began to dance “para el chico” which means “for the boy."


P1000888P1000895The Parachico costume is composed of a finely carved mask of wood with Spanish features;  light skin color, light blue or green eyes, with a goatee. To complete the costume there is a satin scarf, black shirt and pants, a colorful serape and one chinchín (rattle).  Accompanying the Parachicos, or sometimes dancing on their own, is another type of dancer called “chuntas.”  These are men dressed as women as the word chunta means maid or servant.  These figures represent the maids and servants of Doña María.  Most of the men dress in shirts and long skirts.

P1000889P1000882Our group found various ways to entertain ourselves as we waited for the parade to begin.  There were rides, people watching and new friends to meet as we enjoyed the day.


Day 6 – Tenejapa


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