Overview of the Centro Historico
Spanish under Diego de Mazariegos arrived in 1528, they built a fort and founded a town they called Villa Real de Chiapa. The valley that the town occupies was named Hueyzacatlán, which means "pasture" in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. The Spanish could never have conquered Mexico without the thousands of Aztec, Tarascan, Otomi, and other native troops who formed the overwhelming majority of their armies. Consequently, Nahuatl names sometimes appear in predominantly Maya areas like Chiapas. The colonial city had several additional name changes, Villa Viciosa in 1529, Villa de San Cristóbal de los Llanos in 1531, Ciudad Real in 1536, and finally Ciudad de San Cristóbal in 1829. The final change came when "de las Casas" was added in 1848 to honor 16th Century Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas who defended Chiapas' indigenous people against abuses by the Spanish. In the Maya's Tzotzil language, the name of the town is Jovel ("the place of the clouds"). San Cristóbal de las Casas and its differently-named earlier incarnations formed the capital of Chiapas off and on until 1892, when the seat of government was removed to Tuxtla de Gutierrez, an hour by automobile to the west.
The Zocalo's kiosco and garden area