Hearing me say that I wanted to learn more about Chiapas's history, Hans Bercián, the Pastor's son, brings me a much-thumbed-through, 6½- x 4¼-inch, orange and green, paperback book of 224 pages, bearing the title Enciclopédico Chiapas. It consists of a brief dictionary of Spanish words and a strangely organized collection of miscellaneous details about the state of Chiapas and Mexico. Here are some of the notes I take:
569 AD: The equivalent of this date is inscribed on a stele, or stone monument, erected by the ancient Maya at the ruins now referred to as Yatoch-kú or Lacanjáh, in the Chiapas lowlands. The stele shows a figure playing the Mayan game a little similar to our basketball.
l498: From the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, 350 air-miles to the northwest (the site today of Mexico City), King Ahuizotl sends a military expedition as far south as present-day El Salvador. This army subjugates the Mayan tribes inhabiting the land that today includes Chiapas. Hereafter, Chiapas's tribes must pay tribute to the Aztecs. Despite these early animosities, Chiapas's Maya Indians eventually become loyal members of the Aztec dominion.
l524: Having defeated the Aztecs of Central Mexico, the Spanish conquistadors subjugate Indians occupying present-day Chiapas. Chiapas's tribes fight valiantly but lose to the better equipped Spanish. A Spanish military outpost is established in a place called Zoctón Nandalumí. However, as soon as the main body of Spanish troops withdraws, the Chiapan Indians rebel and kill the troops left behind.
l527: Under Capt. Diego de Mazariegos, a second expedition visits Chiapas. During the attack on Zoctón Nandalumí at least 2000 of the 4000 Indian inhabitants, instead of surrendering, jump over a cliff to their deaths. Mazariegos's troops take control of all of the region's major cities. This date represents the beginning of Spanish domination in Chiapas. Also it initiates a history of continuing atrocities and cruelties committed by the Spanish upon the Indians.
l7l2: About l5,000 Indians, wishing to rid Chiapas of foreign influence, attack various Chiapan towns and decapitate all people not of indigenous race, language and customs. The rebellion is put down in about a year, its leaders being publicly choked to death.
l82l: Chiapas declares itself independent of Spain and recognizes the Mexican Empire as the only governmental authority. In reality the central Mexican government's power in Chiapas is limited. Many Chiapans feel more allegiance to the "Province of Central America," and many want to see Chiapas become an independent nation. Politics during these years is often laughably (and sometimes tragically) confusing.
l863: As part of France's effort to impose Maximilian I, an Austrian archduke, onto Mexico as its emperor, Chiapas's main city of San Cristóbal is attacked by French troops and briefly occupied.
l867: An Indian called Pedro Díaz Cuscat makes an idol from clay and convinces his neighbors that it's a god descended from Heaven to live among them. In l868 Cuscat's believers crucify a small boy, letting him die on the cross. The government gets wind of this and imprisons Cuscat and a female accomplice claiming to be the mother of God. Now along comes another man and a woman, apparently people only looking for some kind of scam to work, who organize the Indians, attack San Cristóbal, manage to liberate Pedro and the mother of God, but also get themselves captured. Later they are executed, but Pedro and the mother of God are able to escape into the mountains.
l945: North American explorers Eduardo Frey and John Bourne, with a chicle gatherer called Acacio Chan and some Lacandon Indians discover the famous Maya ruins in the Chiapan lowlands today known as Bonampak.
l952: Archaeologist Alberto Ruz discovers a tomb inside the Temple of the Inscriptions at the famous Maya ruins today known as Palenque, located in the Chiapan lowlands.