Tuxtla Gutiérrez: Where Have All the Rabbits Gone?
Capital of the state of Chiapas, Tuxtla Gutierrez is a commercial town and distribution center for tobacco, coffee, and other regional goods and services. Its first name, Tuxtla, means 'place of many rabbits' in the Náhuatl language. Gutiérrez refers to the politician who coordinated Chiapas's union with Mexico in 1824, Joaquín Miguel Gutiérrez. This lowland city replaced San Cristóbal de las Casas as the state capital in 1892, when San Cristóbal was dissed after siding with the Royalists during the War of Independence. Oh, well.
Modern Tuxtla is a large and not particularly attractive city, although friendly and a good pit stop for travelers heading to Palenque, San Cristóbal de las Casas, or one of the state's lovely tropical forests. Tuxtla's heart is the expansive Plaza Cívica, where you'll find the post office, the modern cathedral, and government offices. Prettier Parque de la Marimba is a more intimate, tree-lined park where couples dance to live marimba music in the afternoons after 6 p.m. Both locals and visitors grab folding chairs and listen to the band play in the kiosk. Those adept at danzón (a waltz-like dance that originated in Cuba) dress up and show off their skills.
For more erudite amusement, Museo Regional de Chiapas offers a history museum as well as a botanical garden with tropical plants. (Most of the info is in Spanish only, however.) Within adjacent Parque Madero, el Centro de Convivencia Infantil offers miniature golf and other attractions for children. To buy or just browse regional folk-art, go to Casa de las Artesanías, a handicrafts museum, folk-art shop, and ethnographic museum.
But Tuxtla's main tourist destination is Zoológico Miguel Álvarez del Toro, called the ZooMAT. Better than most zoos, this one has enclosures that mimic as much as possible the natural environment of the animals, all from the region. Native trees and plants are labeled with botanical names as well as names in Spanish. Despite the city's name, I don't remember seeing any rabbits here, let alone many rabbits.
Less than half an hour east of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapa de Corzois the departure point for a boat ride through Cañón del Sumidero, created millions of years ago by the Río Grijalva. The two-hour boat ride through this gorgeous river-canyon is a great way to see hawks, herons, kingfishers, and crocodiles and to learn a little bit about the early history of Chiapas.