Colour, noise and the smell of roast pork swirl around the town square over two weeks as the annual Fiesta Grande, Chiapa de Corzo unfolds. The highlight of the region’s cultural, religious and social calendar, locals from all walks of life come to be swept up in this unique festival.
La Fiesta Grande or la Fiesta de Enero de Chiapa is an annual festival held in the town of Chiapa de Corzo. One of Mexico’s most culturally significant and colorful festivals is unique to this tiny town and has been held here since the 17th century. In 2010, the festival was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Celebrations and observations take place between the fourth and the twenty-third of January. The festival is famous for the masked dancers called parachicos, parades, demonstrations, fireworks, and traditional dishes.
Here are five things to know before you go to the Fiesta Grande in Chiapa de Corzo.
The History of the Fiesta Grande
Although the festival has pre-hispanic origins, the modern festival is centered around three catholic feast day celebrations. These are the feast of Our Lord of Esquipula, the feast of Saint Anthony and the feast of Saint Sebastian.
Over time, many indigenous and Hispanic traditions, historical remembrances and religious observances have been amalgamated into the two-week-long festival.
One element that has become symbolic of the fiesta is the parachico. The colourfully adorned dancers wear painted wooden masks with European features. While the festival’s origins predate the parachicos by hundreds of years they have since become synonymous with the Fiesta Grande. While there are many versions of the origin story of the parachico, the key details are that a European woman took her sick child to be cured by healers in Chiapa de Corzo. When she gave food to the locals to thank them for their help, they danced around in caucasian masks to entertain and placate her child. Para means for and chico means child, thus the parachico is born.
The function of the parachico in the modern festival is to make offerings through their dancing to the patron saints. The dancers parade through the town several times during the course of the festival visiting significant religious and cultural sites.
Today the event is a celebration of local cultures, history, food, family and thanksgiving. For the locals here, it is the most significant period in the calendar.
What to do at the Fiesta Grande
The festival is made up of religious observations, cultural events, historical reenactments, entertainment, and unique festival foods.
Religious observations include masses, processions, and dances.
Cultural traditions include the famous parachicos; a parade of the chuntas, where men, women, and children dress as a traditional female character; and an annual float parade that takes place toward the end of the festival. Theatrical and musical performances also take place in the streets and at the local theatre.
Historical remembrances include a mock naval battle using fireworks which happens at night on the Grijalva River.
The town square becomes a mini fairground with food and craft stalls, pop-up bars, mechanical rides, and games.
Unique dishes are eaten during the festival and can be found at the many food stalls that set up over the festival. The most important dishes to try are the pepita con tasajo a curry-like a stew made with meat and pumpkin seed and roasted pork in a rich adobo broth known as cochito.
Where to see the Fiesta Grande
The Fiesta Grande takes place primarily around the town square of Chiapa de Corzo and the adjacent church, the church of Saint Domingo de Guzmán.
This town in the southern state of Chiapas is on the outskirts of the state’s capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Chiapa de Corzo is steeped in culture and history. Situated along the Grijalva River it has been an important region since prehispanic times. Now finding itself situated along the Panamericana, it has become a great place to stop and explore the history and tradition of the town. And of course, there is no better time to experience this town then when the Fiesta Grande is underway.
When to see the Fiesta Grande
The Fiesta takes place each year between the 8th of January until the 23rd of January each year. All through the program officially begins each year on 8th of January, the real festivities begin on the 15th of January when the parachicos have their first parade around mid-morning. Other key activities and dates include:
- January 15th: First day of Parachicos 10am
- January 17th: Second day of Parachicos 11am
- January 18th: Parachicos visit the cemetery
- January 20th: Fourth day of Parachicos 11am
- January 21st: A mock naval Combat in the river 9pm
- January 22nd: Parade of floats including chuntas and parachicos 4pm
- January 23rd: Parachicos visit the churches 5pm
How to see the Fiesta Grande
The festival really begins on the 15th of January. Events start during the day and festivities carry into the night. The biggest days of the festival are the culmination of the fiesta over the 22nd and the 23rd of January. The events are free, you just need to turn up in the town centre to experience them. You can contact the festival organiser via their Facebook page for specific information.
Check out a range of accommodation options in the area below.
Where to Next
The area surrounding Chiapa de Corzo is naturally spectacular and a great place to explore especially if you have your own vehicle. Check out our article on the region.