San Cristóbal de las Casas
San Cristóbal de las Casas (population 186000), also known by its native Tzotzil name, Jovel (pronounced [xɤ̞ˈve̞l]), is a town and municipality located in the Central Highlands, at an elevation of 2,100 metres. region of the Mexican state of Chiapas.
Founded about 1528 as Villa Real, the settlement was renamed on various occasions before acquiring its present name (1848), which honours Bartolomé de Las Casas, the first bishop of Chiapas. Many colonial buildings remain in the city, the most notable of which is the Santo Domingo church, built in the 16th and 17th centuries.
San Cristóbal was the Chiapas state capital from 1824 to 1892, but remained relatively isolated until the 1970s, when tourism began to influence its economy. Recent decades have seen an influx of indigenous villagers into the ‘Cinturón de Miseria’ (Belt of Misery), a series of impoverished, violence-ridden, makeshift colonies around San Cristóbal’s periférico (ring road). Many of these people are here because they have been expelled from Chamula and other communities as a result of internal politico-religious conflicts. Most of the craft sellers around Santo Domingo church and the underage hawkers around town come from the Cinturón de Miseria.
San Cristóbal was catapulted into the international limelight on January 1, 1994, when the Zapatista rebels selected it as one of four places in which to launch their revolution, seizing and sacking government offices in the town before being driven out within a few days by the Mexican army. Political and social tensions remain, but San Cristóbal continues to attract travelers, real estate investment and a growing middle class.