I want my book to be as exciting as possible, which means setting it in a location where there wouldn’t be a lot of tourists or outsiders, and would possibly be a lot of conflict. To me, the best location would be Chiapas, the area of Mexico with the higher percentage of Indians and a sort of cold civil war going on.
I had assumed I would be able to learn something about Chiapas by visiting Merida and Oaxaca. Both are in the same approximate part of Mexico, with Oaxaca directly bordering Chiapas. I thought the culture and lifestyle would be similar. But it turns out that Mexico is a very diverse country. Merida and Oaxaca are very different from the area of civil uprising I want to use in my story. Clearly I would have to travel still farther to get a feel for the Mexico I want to write about.
Chiapas has a long history of fighting and conflict. The city, like many in this part of Mexico, was originally established by the Mayans, but after about 2000 years, it was taken over by the Chiapa Indians. In 1522, the Indians staged an uprising against Hernan Cortes’s attempts to collect taxes in the wake of his conquest of the Aztec Empire. Some of the natives killed themselves rather than allowing Cortes’s men to defeat them. For over a hundred years, natives continued to fight against the Spanish.
In the early 1820s, Chiapas declared independence from Spain and joined the Mexican Alliance. About twenty years after Chiapas became independent, it was officially recognized as a Mexican state. But even after that, fighting continued between landowners and the native people.
The Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s had little impact on the Chiapas, but one of the more prominent figures in the Revolution, Emiliano Zapata, came from Morelos, one of the cities in the region.
In the 1990s, the Zapatista Army rebelled against the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, leading to more conflict in the region, particularly in the Zapatista-controlled jungles. This part of Mexico is very remote, and not necessarily safe because of the constant fighting between government and rebel factions. But those qualities are what potentially make Chiapas a perfect setting for my book.
Wanting to see more of this area, I left Amy in Oaxaca and traveled to Chiapas, first by plane to Tuxtla and then by bus to the city of San Cristobal, right on the edge of the region controlled by the government.
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