|When Mother Nature allowed man to occupy the earth - she created paradises among the many
wastelands of the continents. Laguna Catemaco was one of them - a large lake teeming with fish,
surrounded by forests of fruit bearing trees, healthy soils to grow most anything in a warm climate, and
game animals dying to meet the locals.
Some allege Laguna Catemaco was the cradle of Mesoamerican civilization. The immediate Catemaco area
is so robbed of its archaeological inheritance that nothing definite can be said about that, although many
other nearby archaeological digs, including Tres Zapotes, definitely prove occupancy to almost 2000 BC.
Studies of archaeological seed samples support farming of maize (corn) to almost 5,000 BC.
The Olmecs apparently were the originators of this early civilization and spread from here to Guatemala
and to the west coast of Mexico. Some contrary scholars believe the move originated in Guatemala. The
Olmec´s documented presence in Los Tuxtlas disappears around 250 AD.
|1519 starts Los Tuxtlas more legible history, when Hernan Cortez of Spain arrived with the intent to conquer Tenochtitlan,
the Aztec empire. He, 650 men, 16 horses, some artillery and zillions of Mexican allies, more or less completed that effort
in 1522. While possibly visiting nearby Coatzacoalcos, Cortes engaged a Nahuatl speaking girl friend, Malinche, and made
her the symbolic mother of Mexico´s future mestizos, although most likely a prolific shipwrecked Spaniard on the Maya
coast proceeded him.
The Spaniards, after their defeat of the last Aztec chieftain Cuauhtémoc, distributed their spoils among themselves,
including their leader Hernán Cortés who in 1529 received title from Spain's Carlos V to the Marquesado del Valle de
Oaxaca which included Los Tuxtlas.
This first post-conquest government in Los Tuxtlas was in Santiago Tuxtla and was said to soon have included another
23 population points.
|Mexico City´s Teotihuacan civilization then rose to dominate Mesoamerica, specifically central Mexico including Los
Tuxtlas. Although Teotihuacan lost its dominance after 650 AD, numerous artifacts supporting that relationship are
found in Matacapan & Ranchoapan, communities very near Catemaco, and dated to the
450 - 1000 AD range.
There is then a gap in the Tuxtlas chronology and apparently little happend until the arrival of the Mexicas (Aztecs) in
Veracruz and exacted tributes of cacao, cotton, precious feathers, gold, greenstones, and rubber, as well as several
staple foodstuffs, plus fruits, and fish.
The southern Tuxtlas through Coatzacoalcos remained independent and apparently frequently warred with their
northern neighbors until the Popolucas decisively defeated the Aztecs at Cuilonia in the area of San Pedro Soteapan.
The Aztecs spoke Nahuatl, as probably did their antecedents from Teotihuacan. Their presence is the source of many
of the place names in Los Tuxtlas.
The origin of the Tuxtlas name is still nebulous. An early historian claims it was the name for "wide deformed heads",
(Tuztla - cabezas anchas), the Codex Mendoza (an Aztec bark painting) relates the word to "Toxtla - a little yellow bird
frequenting the area", others lean towards "Toxtlan - place of rabbits", especially those of a similar named Mexican
city "Tuxtla Gutierrez".
|Hernan Cortes and his descendents kept legally owning most of Los Tuxtlas until Mexico´s independence in 1821, at which
time the inheritors apparently abdicated their ownership. Previously in 1567 a major lawsuit stripped the Cortes family of
many lands, possibly including some of Los Tuxtlas. Around 1525 Cortes established the first sugar cane plantation near
Santiago Tuxtla and imported cattle began chewing on the Tuxtlas landscape. The same year he also supposedly founded
Santiago Tuxtla as a "Villa Española".
Allegedly "Ixtlan", just west of Volcano San Martin Tuxtla (aka Tiltepetl), was possibly destroyed by an eruption ca. 1531
and caused its population to flee to what is now known as San Andrés Tuxtla.
Political jockeying in the 1500's and 1600's caused the Tuxtlas to be variously governed by cities adjacent to Los Tuxtlas,
Tlacotalpan and Acayucan.
In 1580 the name of Catemaco / Acatemaco makes its first appearance as part of a treatise by the then mayor of
Tlacotalpan. Conflicting sources relate the city´s name to either the nahuatl term for "burned houses" or an inhabitant named
Catemaxca. Also in 1580 Spanish documents mention San Pedro Soteapan, Mecayapan & Tatahuicapan as part of the
province of Coatzacoalcos, canton of Acayucan.
Although there are mentions of the native population in early historical documents, the various plagues unknowingly
introduced by the Spaniards had begun exterminating most of the Indian populations to the point where the import of African
slaves became necessary to maintain sugarcane plantations begun by the Spanish conquerors in the northern Tuxtlas.
At the start of the 18th century, more likely than not, many of the original inhabitants had escaped to the mountain ranges of
Los Tuxtlas, where even today, remnants of Popoluca and Nahuatl speakers occupy entire villages. (Popoluca is alleged to
be a remnant language of the Olmecs).
|Essentially, because of its geographic isolation, stuck between several major rivers (Papaloapan and Coatzacoalcos)
and the Gulf of Mexico without a functional port and not near any major city except via a 23 day oxcart ride to Mexico
City or a week´s boat or horse ride to Veracruz, the Tuxtlas wallowed in their solitude and assimilated their invadors
ranging from conquistadores' offspring to escaped slaves while regularly getting slammed by major health crisis. A
mystical culture bred off them which culminated in the present day "brujos". (Catemaco´s reputed witches).
The arrival of a railroad in 1913 along with the large population shifts during Mexico´s revolution against dictator Porfirio
Diaz and the ensuing civil war beginning in 1910 then forcefully dragged the Tuxtlas into the modern age. Land
distribution schemes originating in the revolutionary constitution of 1917 but not fully applied till 1934 then opened the
area to an influx of mestizos from elsewhere in Mexico. This influx exploded after the building of a paved road in the
mid 1950´s connecting Los Tuxtlas to Veracruz city and Acayucan which allowed huge land grants to impoverished
mostly Mexican mestizos from elsewhere in the country to settle into the fringes of Los Tuxtlas.
From 1950 to 2000, Catemaco´s population increased 512% to 45,383, Los Tuxtlas increased 312% to 383,416.
Because of Mexico gargantuan efforts of population control, the area has finally stabilized its population after decades
of uncontrolled growth.