Thousands of people visit Ocosingo every year—for about 15 minutes. That’s how long buses stop here on their way to and from must-sees San Cristóbal de las Casas and Palenque. But this small city is well worth a longer stop, principally to visit Toniná, a remarkable yet little-visited Maya archaeological site just outside of town.
The city itself doesn’t have much appeal, and many people simply get back on the bus and continue onward after visiting the ruins. Others stay the night to enjoy Ocosingo’s small-town atmosphere, or to catch early buses to remote destinations in the Lacandón rainforest, including Laguna Miramar.
Ocosingo also happens to be famous for its cheese—once a cow town, always a cow town—and some aficionados come here expressly for the tasty doble crema or the spicy spreadable queso botanero.
Ocosingo was one of the primary targets of the Zapatista army on its New Year’s Day uprising in 1994. The radio station was taken over, and used to broadcast the rebels’ message of political and agrarian reform. The Zapatistas eventually retreated back into the forest, but the Mexican army has remained, establishing a massive military base just outside of town, and even maintaining checkpoints and armed patrols around town.
More than 15 years after the uprising, the military presence strikes many as excessive, and the army is the cause of as much local grumbling as the Zapatistas ever were.
Getting to Ocosingo
Ocosingo’s bus terminal (Hwy. 199, tel. 919/673-0431) is on the highway about seven blocks from the center of town. Most departures are de paso (mid-route), so be sure to arrive a half hour early in case the bus arrives ahead of schedule. Destinations include Palenque, San Cristóbal, and Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition