Photo: David Cabrera, Iglesia de San Roque
A modern city in the tropics, Tuxtla Gutiérrez (elevation: 530 meters or 1,725 feet) has been the capital of Chiapas since 1892. Stroll to the Parque Marimba to hear the local music.
South of town is the Sumidero Canyon on the road to San Cristóbal.
Faustino Miranda Botanical Garden
The Faustino Miranda Botanical Garden was created under the direction of Faustino Miranda, author of the book The Vegetation of Chiapas, a classic text. The garden covers 4.4 hectares (10.9 acres) on the banks of the Sabinal River and is located in Madero Park.
Miguel Alvarez del Toro Zoo
The 139-hectare (343-acre) Miguel Alvarez del Toro Zoo features animals endemic to Chiapas, including boar, mountain deer, badger, pheasant, tapir, black jaguar, and pavon (a large turkey used as the symbol of the zoo, it is endemic to Chiapas and in danger of extinction). Natural barriers are used instead of cages, and the animals’ surroundings mimic their native habitats. Of the zoo’s 213 species, 90 percent are in danger of extinction. The zoo is considered a regional model and has influenced other zoos, including a zoo in Belize.
Miguel Alvarez del Toro was a world-famous zoologist, author of Los animales silvestres de Chiapas (1952), Los aves de Chiapas (1971), and Los mamiferos de Chiapas (1977). Alvarez del Toro was a strong proponent of conserving the mangroves, breeding grounds for 96 percent of the fish captured along Mexico’s coasts, and the El Triunfo cloud forest, which later became a biosphere reserve.
A native of Colima, Alvarez del Toro moved to Mexico City with his family in the late 1930s and obtained a job as a taxidermist at the National Museum of Flora and Fauna. The position was a fiasco though, as his immediate supervisors demoted him to janitor — except when visitors came to the museum and Alvarez del Toro was asked to translate.
In 1942 Alvarez del Toro learned of plans to establish a natural history museum in Chiapas, and Eliseo Palacios hired him as the project’s taxidermist. Upon Palacios’ death, he became the director of the Department of Tropical Nurseries and the Museum of Natural History, now known as the Institute of Natural History and Ecology. Respected throughout Mexico and the world, Alvarez del Toro continued his work for environmental conservation in Mexico until his death in the summer of 1996.
The Jaguares de Chiapas is a division soccer team.
Tuxtla Gutierrez is located 85 kilometers (50 miles) north of San Cristóbal de las Casas.
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