This historical city is located on the right banks of the Rio Grande or Grijalva, 14 kilometers from Tuxtla Gutiérrez. The strategic position of the river crossing where the central depression meets the highlands made it favorable as an early settlement dating back to 1400 BC. An Oto-Manguean group, the Chiapanecas, arrived here around 1000 and dominated its neighbors
It was with this group that the Spaniards made their initial contact, first in 1524, when the expedition of Luis Marín came, and then again in 1528 with the arrival of conquistador Diego de Mazariegos.
After the conquest, Chiapa became an encomienda and later a direct dependency to the Spanish crown, hence it was called Chiapa of the Royal Crown. In 1821, it joined forces with the independence movement in Comitán and was the backdrop of the battle between the liberals and conservatives in the 19th century. The battle of 21 October 1863 was decisive for the triumph of the reform in Chiapas.
The city honors and bears the surname of Ángel Albino Corzo who was the president of Chiapa de Corzo.
The first element of its heritage is its geometric layout, a result of a plan that fuses the ideals of urban renaissance with roots in a pre-Hispanic city.
The layout of this city radiates from the main square around which are its iconic structures (the fountain, city council, trade houses and temples), reflecting a clear socio-economic system that the city originated from and its importance as a city; in its first two centuries of settlement, it was one of the most important in the province.
Around the main square, there are shopping arcades constructed possibly in the 18th century. The municipal building and the home of Ángel Albino Corzo are to the northeast. Within the perimeters of the square, you will find la secuelar pochonta, a sacred tree which, according to tradition, is linked to the foundation of the city. There is also a clock tower built in the 1950s which takes after the architecture of the fountain.
This is a structure without comparison in terms of colonial Latin American art with the finishing touches of Hispano-Arabic art. Its unique design has no direct references to any Spanish examples. According to historian Antonio de Remesal, this fountain was designed and its construction initiated by Fray Rodrigo de Leon and in his absence was continued by a Spaniard until its completion in 1562. La Pila is also a popular meeting point for many inhabitants of this city.
On an octagonal platform, a vault raised on four pillars is supported by buttresses that repeat the number eight. The brocade under the vault is also octagonal in shape and segmented by nervures. The fountain is made of brick, some cut into a diamond shape.
The use of this material gives it a peculiar texture. Constructed in the best of Mudéjar tradition, it unites great architecture harmony with elements derived from Islamic art (the octagonal platform and brickwork), a Renaissance-inspired vault and other elements derived from Gothic art. Nevertheless, it is an original structure that does not imitate other designs. An unfounded version of the origin of the design is that it was inspired by the crown of the kings of Spain.
The letters on the buttress cannot be reliably confirmed. Art critic Francisco de la Maza did comment that, “the grand fountain of Chiapa de Corzo, by itself, is worth a visit to Chiapas.”
The layout of the city dates back to pre-Hispanic urban planning. The actual neighborhoods are reminiscent of the Chiapanecan Na’ngotá who were fewer than eight and whose elderly formed the upper-class. We know for sure the names of six of these neighborhoods: Cacú, Nbñamoy, Candili, Monyholá, Napiniaca y Shanguti. They bear remarkable resemblance to the original neighborhoods.
One of the most traditional is San Jacinto where parachicos masks and jicalpextles (polished acrylic-painted bowls made from the fruit of a calabash tree). The church of El Señor de los Milagros with a great ceiba tree in its compound presides over the square of this neighborhood. Santa Elena is a neighborhood that has preserved a considerable amount of its traditional architecture.
Ruins of San Sebastián
On top the San Gregorio church lay the ruins of San Sebastián. It was constructed in the 17th century. Its existence denotes the economic and demographic importance of this city in colonial times, since other towns only had one single church. It features three naves by separate arches, today destroyed. Still standing are its vault and façade which are part of the altarpiece with niches between its pillars.
You can observe elements of Mudéjar, Renaissance and Baroque elements in San Sebastián. It was the independence stronghold during the battle of 21 October 1963. From here, you can enjoy an exceptional panoramic view of the urban area that melts into the landscape of the Rio Grande.