This town, located on eastern Chiapas, traces its roots to the settlement of a group of Tzeltales Indians; then, in 1528, it was founded by the Dominican monks a short time after the Spaniards’ arrival.
Comitan, as it is commonly known, has hosted important historical events. It was the birthplace of Chiapas’ independence movement – the independence act was signed at Santa Maria de Comitan on 1821 – and it is also the birthplace of distinguished men and women, such as the doctor and political scientist Belisario Dominguez, and the prominent poet and novelist Rosario Castellanos.
Historical center, colonial richness
Comitan’s historical downtown is home to buildings that offer a view to the region’s colonial past. Among them, we can find the Anthropology Museum, the Rosario Castellanos Library, the City Theater and over 10 churches.
At the main square, we find the imposing Santo Domingo temple with its Mudejar style facade, which was built on the second half of the 15th century. On August 28th, 1821, this temple hosted the church mass where Comitan’s independence from Spanish rule was declared. On the other hand, the Rosario Castellanos Cultural Center organizes activities such as film and theater shows, recitals, art exhibitions, festivals and concerts.
Other buildings of great tradition are the patio of wooden columns, the City Hall and the Junchavin Theater, with a neoclassic facade, where a variety of shows are presented.
The San Caralampio and El Calvario temples, the San Sebastian neighborhood chapel and the Municipal Cemetery, where some chapels simulate miniature cathedrals, are also points of interest for visitors.
Museums, witnesses for the past
The city’s museums are a window to the region’s cultural tradition. The Comitan Archeological Museum has three rooms exhibiting the development of the Llanos region’s pre-Hispanic towns, the discoveries made at the Mayan city of Tenam Puente and temporary exhibitions.
The Belisario Dominguez Museum is an example of Comitan’s large houses from the 19th century; this is the place where Dr. Belisario Dominguez was born and lived most of his life. Throughout its 10 rooms, objects and documents of his property are displayed. Likewise, one can visit the house’s garden, which still keeps the doctor’s favorite plants.
Finally, the Hermila Dominguez de Castellanos Art Museum, through its archive and temporary exhibitions, promotes contemporary plastic arts.
Tenam Puente, a Mayan trace
About 8 miles southwest of Comitan, on top of a hill, the ancient Mayan city of Tenam Puente stands up. Its limits extend all the way to the Montebello Lakes, on Chiapas’ eastern region.
Tenam Puente lived its peak period during the Pre-classical Era, from 900 to 200 A.D. The town center is made up by more than 60 structures for civil, religious and housing purposes, in addition to three ball games.
Comitan’s festivities: tradition and color
Throughout the year, this town celebrates festivals and rituals that honor its inhabitants’ indigenous roots. Among the religious celebrations, Eastern, with the traditional Stations of the Cross, and the Day of the Dead, when the municipal cemetery gets packed with colorful flower arrangements, are the two prime examples.
Among neighborhoods, locals celebrate their saints by visiting temples and packing them with flowers.
Comitan also hosts the Rosario Castellanos International Festival, a cultural event that takes place the first week of May along the city’s neighborhoods. During these days, the attendees can enjoy a book fair, workshops, music, theater and dance performances, and art exhibitions.
Comitan’s dishes reflect the mix of the indigenous and Spanish cultures, and the richness of its surroundings that possess a great variety of climates and ecosystems.
Among the diverse local dishes, we can highlight the patahsete snacks, the asiento chalupas, pork stews, ball and chipilin tamales, and tamales wrapped in banana leaves. Likewise, we can find cold meats, soups, traditional Mexican food and candy.
The Tzisim is another local delicacy which consists of an ant specie that is only found during the rainy season (from May through July), seasoned with salt and lemon and grilled. It can be found on the local market and women carry baskets selling it throughout the streets.
When it comes to drinks, the mistela (fruit liquor) and the wheat flour drink are always present. The local agave liquor is obtained from the pulque’s distillation; it is sold at different levels of ageing and in different flavors – white, aged, special reserve, loquat sweet, peach, nantze and blackberry.
Visiting Comitan is an experience full of flavors, colors, culture and tradition.