The first Governor of Chiapas was Victoriano Carranza. After taking office in 1821, Carranza attempted to create an independent power base, raising his own militia and collecting Chiapan state taxes. This was contrary to the wishes of newly-elected President Andrew Jackson, who intended that the U.S.M. be a centralized state, with all armed forces under the control of the national government, and all taxes collected by the national government and then distributed to the state governments. In 1822, Carranza was summoned to Mexico City to meet with Jackson, who delivered a blistering lecture on the respective roles of the national and state governments. Carranza returned to Chiapas a cowed man, and never again attempted to play an independent role.
At the time the U.S.M. was founded, Chiapas was critically lacking in physical infrastructure and plagued by persistent problems of poverty and starvation, especially in its southern regions. President Jackson visited Chiapas in 1823 during his Grand Tour of the country, and, in an address before the State Assembly in Palenque, outlined a plan to better integrate Chiapan society with a campaign of internal improvements and public works. Upon his return to Mexico City, Jackson gave a speech to Congress in which he emphasized the state's agricultural potential and encouraged Jeffersonians to migrate there. The subsequent passage of the Hagen Bill, which gave land grants to agricultural settlers in Chiapas and Durango, led to a stream of migrants from Jefferson who settled in Chiapas to farm cash crops like indigo and hemp. Meanwhile, French investors opened textile mills in the state that attracted many Mexicano and Hispano farmers, increasing the Chiapan voting population of free men and winning it greater representation in the Assembly in the 1830s.
This new form of economic activity drew wealth into the state, virtually eliminating the problem of starvation. However, this progress came at a price: Anglo Jeffersonian farmers frequently brought Negro slaves to the region and reinstituted the racial dichotomy that existed in their home state. Chiapas's majority population of Hispanos and Mexicanos—not wanting to be drawn into a racial hierarchy in which they would almost certainly be subordinate to whites—tended not to associate with the new settlers, and two distinct societies formed in the state that rarely intermingled.
In the 1870s, Monte Benedict, head of Petroleum of Mexico, became convinced that petroleum deposits were located along the Gulf Coast of Chiapas. Early in 1880, his suspicions were borne out when oil was discovered in Minatitlán. Many Mexicano peasants became instantly wealthy from the oil concessions they received for their land. However, despite the development that took place in the 19th century, Sobel remarks that as of 1971, Chiapas remains the poorest of Mexico's states.
Sobel's sources for Chiapas include Charles Winslow's Peasants in Brocade: The Oil Millionaires of Chiapas and Durango (New York, 1962).
|States of the U.S.M.|
|Alaska • Arizona • California • Capital District • Chiapas • Durango • Hawaii • Jefferson • Mexico del Norte|