Chiapas , officially Free and Sovereign State of Chiapas (Spanish: Estado Libre y Soberano de Chiapas), is one of the 31 states that, with the Federal District, make up the 32 Federal Entities ofMexico. It is divided into 122 municipalities and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Other important population centers in Chiapas include San Cristóbal de las Casas, Comitán, Tapachula and Arriaga. Located in Southeastern Mexico, it is the southernmost State of Mexico. It is bordered by the states of Tabasco to the north, Veracruz to the northwest andOaxaca to the west. To the east Chiapas borders Guatemala, and to the south the Pacific Ocean.
In general, Chiapas has a humid, tropical climate. In the north, in the area bordering Tabasco, near Teapa, rainfall can average more than 3,000 mm (120 in) per year. In the past, natural vegetation at this region was lowland, tall perennialrainforest, but this vegetation has been destroyed almost completely to give way to agriculture and ranching. Rainfall decreases moving towards the Pacific Ocean, but it is still abundant enough to allow the farming of bananas and many other tropical crops near Tapachula. On the several parallel "sierras" or mountain ranges running along the center of Chiapas, climate can be quite temperate and foggy, allowing the development of cloud forests like those of the Reserva de la Biosfera el Triunfo, home to a handful of resplendent quetzals and horned guans.
Chiapas is home to the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilán, Bonampak, and Chinkultic. It is also home to one of the largest indigenous populations in the country with twelve federally recognized ethnicities. Much of the state’s history is centered on the subjugation of these peoples with occasional rebellions. The last of these rebellions was the 1994 Zapatista uprising, which succeeded in obtaining new rights for indigenous people.
Like in the rest of Mexico, Christianity was imposed on the native population by the Spanish conquistadors. Catholic beliefs were mixed with indigenous ones to form what is now called "traditionalist" Catholic belief. The Diocese of Chiapas comprises almost the entire state, and centered on San Cristobal de las Casas. It was founded in 1538 by Pope Paul III to evangelize the area with its most famous bishop of that time Bartolomé de las Casas. Evangelization focused on grouping indigenous peoples into communities centered on a church. This bishop not only had these people evangelized in their own language, he worked to introduce many of the crafts still practiced today. While still a majority, only sixty-eight percent of Chiapas residents profess the Catholic faith as of 2010, compared to 83% of the rest of the country.
Many indigenous people mix Christianity with Indian beliefs. One particular area where this is strong is the central highlands in small communities such as San Juan Chamula. In one church in San Cristobal, Mayan rites including the sacrifice of animals is permitted inside the church to ask for good health or to "ward off the evil eye."
Starting in the 1970s, there has been a shift away from traditional Catholic affiliation to Protestant, Evangelical and other Christian denominations. Presbyterians andPentecostals attracted a large number of converts, with percentages of Protestants in the state rising from five percent in 1970 to twenty-one percent in 2000. This shift has had a political component as well, with those making the switch tending to identify across ethnic boundaries, especially across indigenous ethnic boundaries and being against the traditional power structure. The National Presbyterian Church in Mexico is particularly strong in Chiapas, the state can be described as one of the strongholds of the denomination.
To counter this, the Diocese of Chiapas began to actively re-evangelize among the indigenous populations, and working on their behalf politically as well, following an ideology called liberation theology. Those attracted by this movement call themselves "Word of God" Catholics and identify directly with the Diocese, rather than with local Catholic authorities. Both Protestants and Word of God Catholics tend to oppose traditional cacique leadership and often worked to prohibit the sale of alcohol. The latter had the effect of attracting many women to both movements.
The growing number of Protestants, Evangelicals and Word of God Catholics challenging traditional authority has caused religious strife in a number of indigenous communities. Tensions have been strong, at times, especially in rural areas such as San Juan Chamula. Tension among the groups reached its peak in the 1990s with a large number of people injured during open clashes. In the 1970s, caciques began to expel dissidents from their communities for challenging their power, initially with the use of violence. By 2000, more than 20,000 people had been displaced, but state and federal authorities did not act to stop the expulsions. Today, the situation has quieted but the tension remains, especially in very isolated communities.
The average number of years of schooling is 6.7, which is the beginning of middle school, compared to the Mexico average of 8.6. 16.5% have no schooling at all, 59.6% have only primary school/secondary school, 13.7% finish high school or technical school and 9.8 go to university. Eighteen out of every 100 people 15 years or older cannot read or write, compared to 7/100 nationally. Most of Chiapas’ illiterate population are indigenous women, who are often prevented from going to school. School absenteeism and dropout rates are highest among indigenous girls.
There are an estimated 1.4 million students in the state from preschool on up. The state has about 61,000 teachers and just over 17,000 centers of educations. Preschool and primary schools are divided into modalities called general, indigenous, private and community educations sponsored by CONAFE. Middle school is divided into technical, telesecundaria (distance education) and classes for working adults. About 98% of the student population of the state is in state schools. Higher levels of education include "professional medio" (vocational training), general high school and technology-focused high school. At this level, 89% of students are in public schools. There are 105 universities and similar institutions with 58 public and 47 private serving over 60,500 students.
The state university is the Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas (UNACH). It was begun when an organization to establish a state level institution was formed in 1965, with the university itself opening its doors ten years later in 1975. The university project was partially supported by UNESCO in Mexico. It integrated older schools such as the Escuela de Derecho (Law School), which originated in 1679; the Escuela de Ingeniería Civil (School of Civil Engineering), founded in 1966; and the Escuela de Comercio y Administración, which was located in Tuxtla Gutiérrez