HSU Chiapas/handbook

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Contents

Tressie and Claudia with drying beans in a rural community
Artisan goods of Chiapas
Cathedral de San Cristóbal de Las Casas

Location

San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

Chiapas is the southernmost State of Mexico. Chiapas is bordered by the states of Tabasco to the north, Veracruz to the northwest, and Oaxaca to the west. In addition, Chiapas borders Guatemala to the southeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. Chiapas is geographically divided into five zones. These are the rainforest, the highlands, the central valley, the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, and the Soconusco.

San Cristóbal de las Casas is located in the central highlands of Chiapas. It is located at an elevation of approximately 2100 m above sea level and is approximately 50 miles away from Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas.

San Cristóbal de las Casas quick location facts:

  • Altitude: 2100 m above sea level
  • Latitude: 16° 75’
  • Longitude: 92° 63’

Demographics

Chiapas' population is about 55% Mestizo and 40% Indigenous, mostly of Maya ancestry. Around 35% of the indigenous population does not speak Spanish as a first language. Indigenous languages include Chol, Mam, Tzotzil and Tzeltal. In San Cristóbal de las Casas, the indigenous language you will hear most often is Tzotzil because of the cities proximity to the Tzotzil township San Juan Chamula. Although, as a major meeting place in Chiapas, if you wander through the extensive markets you will hear many languages. Chiapas has an area of about 73,289 km² (28,297 sq mi) and the state's population was 4,293,459 people in the 2005 census.

San Cristóbal de las Casas is the third-largest community in Chiapas, after Tuxtla and Tapachula. The municipality’s area is 484 km² (187 sq mi) and the city’s population was 142,364 people in the 2005 census. It has been long regarded as Cultural Capital of the State of Chiapas, where diverse cultural and artistic expressions abound. In 2003, San Cristóbal de las Casas was named a "Pueblo Mágico," an honor that was renewed in 2010.

Recent Political Activity

Sign outside Oventik, a prominent Zapatista Municipality Image taken by Meghan Heintz
A mural in Oventik Image taken by Meghan Heintz

In 1994, the EZLN otherwise known as the Zapatistas, a leftist revolutionary group, declared a largely non-violent and defensive war against the Mexican state. The group is mainly comprised of indigenous rural people, but has many urban regional and international supporters. The group takes its name from Emiliano Zapata, an agrarian reformer and commander during the Mexican Revolution of 1910. While the initial uprising in 1994 utilized weapons, the effects of the superior Mexican army have caused the EZLN to select a non-violent strategy which has greatly increased their international support. Zapatista ideology synthesizes traditional Mayan beliefs with anarchist, libertarian socialist and Marxist ideas. The Abejas (the Bees) are considered a pacifist sister group to the Zapatistas because of their similar ideologies. Women's rights are especially emphasized in the Zapatista manifesto. Despite the political activity of these groups, Chiapas is considered one of the safest states in Mexico today. [1]

Natural Setting

Cañón del Sumidero Image by Jessica Lamb
Palenque Image by Jessica Lamb

Chiapas is home to the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilán, Bonampak, Chinkultic. Palenque is possibly the most studied and written about Mayan site. Interestingly in 2010, Pennsylvania State University researchers identified a pressurized aquaduct in Palenque. This aqueduct is the earliest known plumbing in the New World and disproves the notion that the Spanish introduced water pressure systems. [2] The Cañón del Sumidero is also located in Chiapas. This stunning canyon which overlooks the river Grijalva is important for several reasons. It is both an important tourist attraction, a habitat for a variety of wildlife (including American crocodiles) and the source for the reservoir of the Chicoasén hydroelectric dam.


Economics

Chiapas remains one of the poorest states in Mexico. GDP per inhabitant remains below half the national average (Nationally $1,500 and in Chiapas $650). Crude oil production and electricity generation from hydroelectric dams are the two main economic activities in the industrial sector. While half the population is engaged in agricultural fields producing products including coffee, papayas, mangoes and plantains. [3]

Climate

In general Chiapas has a humid, tropical climate, but San Cristóbal is temperate with average annual temperatures of 15 °C. The warmest month is June and with average temperature rarely exceeding 18 °C. The coldest month is January with average temperatures under 13 °C. The rainy season lasts from May until October and average annual rainfall is more than 1000 mm.

San Cristóbal de las Casas [4] Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Tot
Daily Max Temperature (oC) 20.7 21.7 23.2 23.5 23.4 22.8 22.5 22.7 22.0 21.5 21.0 20.3 22.1
Daily Avg Temperature (oC) 12.4 13.0 14.3 15.6 16.4 17.1 16.4 16.5 16.5 15.4 14.1 12.9 15.1
Daily Min Temperature (oC) 4.2 4.2 5.5 7.6 9.4 11.3 10.3 10.4 11.0 9.3 7.1 5.4 8.0
Monthly Rainfall (mm) 8.5 11.7 20.7 38.6 115.5 214.8 145.6 155.5 207.7 93.4 34 11 1056.7

Phone Calls

Phone calls within Mexico are expensive. Using VOIP such as Skype can reduce the cost from 1 dollar/minute calls to the USA down to .2 dollars/minute, albeit with a decrease in call quality and the necessitation of computer access.

Some information on phone numbers and calling cards follow, in addition check out tomzap for some more information].

To dial the US from Mexico

  • Dial 001-areacode-phonenumber

To dial Mexico from the USA

  • Dial 011-countrycode-areacode-phonenumber
    • 52 is the country code for mexico

Please note that calling a cell phone now requires a 1 after the country code, e.g. 011-52-1-842-100-####

Publico Phone Card

  • Can be used in public phones that take a card (the majority of public phones)
  • The 100 peso card yields 25 pesos additional free
    • 1 peso/minute local (non cellphone) calls
    • 4 pesos/minute domestic long distance (including cell phones)
    • 10 pesos/minute to the USA
    • If you have a card that is cheaper (I know somewhat cheaper ones to the USA exist), please post the details here.

Casa Phone Card

  • These cards have a scratcher number
  • You can use this as a per use card or add all of the money to your home phone
  • The directions on my card for per use dialing are:
    1. Dial *4001*
    2. Dial the long number from the box you previously scratched off
    3. Dial your destination number

To dial Mexico with Skype

  • Calls within Mexico cost less using Skype than with a public phone card.
    • Select Mexico in Skype
  • Skype is particularly less expensive for dialing mobile phones
    • Do not include the 044 prefix when dialing a mobile phone with Skype. Use the identical format as above (AreaCode-Prefix-####).

Travel information to Chiapas

The easiest way to arrive in San Cristobal de las Casas is to fly into Tuxtla Gutiérrez through Mexico City. From Tuxtla Gutiérrez you can take a 1.25 hour trip to San Cristobal (see how to arrive below). The cost varies from $10-40 USD. It may also be more economical if you share a van with other arriving students.

Try to arrive the morning of TBA. The program starts on TBA and ends on TBA. You can fly out any time after the night of the program, but your home-stay will only be paid for until the last day.

How to arrive from the Tuxtla airport

The trip from the Tuxtla Airport (which is actually closer to Chapa de Corso) to San Cristobal takes about 1 hour 15 minutes. Here are four methods to arrive from the airport (prices are in pesos):

  1. Taxi Direct from the airport to San Cristóbal ~ $500 pesos
  2. Autobuses Cristóbal Colón or ADO leave from the airport to San Cristóbal for $138 pesos
    • Horarios: 10:30, 13:00, 16:00, 17:30
  3. Van with previous reservation for 1-3 people $650 pesos and for 4-10 people $1600 pesos
  4. Taxi and public bus. Take a taxi from the airport to the Tuxtla bus station ~ $180 pesos and then in the bus station take a bus to San Cristóbal de las Casas ~$30 pesos.
    • The bus schedule for Tuxtla to San Cristóbal is:
    • 8:50, 10:50, 12:50, 14:00, 15:20, 17:40, 18:05, 18:10, 19:15, 19:50, 20:10, 21:45, 22:00, 22:15.


Important Contact Information

Universidad Intercultural de Chiapas (UNICH)
San Cristóbal de las Casas
Chiapas, México
Tel:(967) 631-6151, 631-4886 y 631-4888
Fax:(967) 631-6152 
Lic. Ursula Lascurain H.
OTROS MUNDOS A.C.
Francisco I. Madero 49 
Barrio de Guadalupe 29230 San Cristóbal de las Casas
Chiapas, México
Tel (967) 6316643
http://www.otrosmundoschiapas.org
Centro de Difusión Universitaria Intercultural (CEDUI)
Calle Diego de Mazariegos No. 9, Planta alta. Centro 
Histórico. San Cristóbal de Las Casas
Chiapas, México
Humboldt State University
1 Harpst St.
Arcata, CA 95521-8299
Information: (707) 826-3011
HSU Police: (707) 826-3456 (They have our US emergency contact information)
Lonny Grafman
lonny@humboldt.edu
HSU Phone: (707) 826-3649

More info

References

  1. Chiapas one of the top 5 safest states in Mexico according to these statistics - http://www.icesi.org.mx/estadisticas/estadisticas_encuestasNacionales_ensi6.asp
  2. http://live.psu.edu/story/46532
  3. http://www.explorandomexico.com/state/5/Chiapas/economy/
  4. http://smn.cna.gob.mx/climatologia/normales/estacion/chis/NORMAL07087.TXT