Campeche, officially Free and Sovereign State of Campeche, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico
. Located in Southeast Mexico, it is bordered by the states of Yucatán to the north east, Quintana Roo
to the east, and Tabasco
to the south west. To the south it is bordered by the Petén department of Guatemala
, to the east by Belize
and to the west by the Gulf of Mexico. The state capital, also called Campeche, was declared a World
Heritage Site in 1997.
The formation of the state began with the city, which was founded in 1540 as the Spanish began the conquest of the Yucatán Peninsula. During the colonial period, the city was a rich and important port, but declined after Mexico’s Independence. Campeche was part of the province of Yucatán but split off in the mid-19th century, mostly due to political friction with city of Mérida. Today, much of the state’s economic comeback is due to the finding of petroleum offshore in the 1970s, which has made the coastal cities of Campeche and Ciudad del Carmen
important economic centers. The state has important Mayan and colonial sites but they are not as well known or visited as others in the Yucatán.
Geography and Environment
The state of Campeche is located in southeast Mexico, on the west side of the Yucatan
Peninsula. The territory is 56,858.84sq km, which is 2.6% of Mexico’s total. It borders the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Tabasco, with the country of Belize to the east, Guatemala to the south and the Gulf of Mexico to the west. Politically, it is divided into eleven municipalities: Calkiní, Calakmul
, Campeche, Candelaria, Champotón, Ciudad del Carmen, Escárcega, Hecelchakán, Hopelchén, Palizada
Campeche is a relatively flat area of Mexico with 523 km of shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the surface is of sedimentary rock much of which is from marine origin. The area with the highest elevations is near the borders with Guatemala and Quintana Roo. Notable elevations include Cerro Champerico (390 meters), Cerro los Chinos (370 meters), Cerro El Ramonal (340 meters), Cerro El Doce (250 meters) and Cerro El Gavilán (210 meters). However, these hills are separated by large expanses of lower flat land.
The name of Campeche is derived from the Mayan name of a settlement called “Ah-Kin-Pech” where the city of Campeche is now. When the Spanish first arrived to the area in 1517, they made contact there and hispanicized the pronunciation. The original mean “place of snakes and ticks.” The first people to dominate the state were the Mayas, who arrived to Campeche from Guatemala, Honduras
. The main Mayan cities were Edzna
, and later Calakmul and Becán.
The Mayan civilization reached it height between 600 and 900 From 1000 on, the Mayan cities collapsed and were abandoned for unknown reasons. This led to the establishment of smaller settlements and a mixing of the Mayan and Chontal people in the south of the state, which had commercial ties to the central highland cultures of Mexico. From the 11th century to the 16th century, Campeche was divided into smaller dominions.
Much of Campeche’s territory is filled with various archeological sites, almost all of which are Mayan. These sites are far less known and visited than sites to the east such as Chichen Itza
. An early important site is Edzna, located near the city of Campeche in a region known as los Chenes. It was one of the most important ceremonial centers in the pre Classic Maya period (300-900CE). Its building show Petén, Chenes and Puuc influence, with a large acropolis surrounded by various temples, the most important of which is the Pyramid of the Five Floors.
The largest archeological site in the state is Calakmul, which means “twin heaps” in Maya. It is located in the Petén region built in the late Classic period (500-900 CE). Calakmal is estimated to have been populated around 1000 BCE with its height at around 600 In 695 CE, Calakmul was conquered by Tikal and the city fell into decline. Calakmul is located in the interior rainforest of the state in a biosphere named after it near the Guatemala border.
The state has two main government sponsored cultural festivals, the Festival del Centro Histórico and the Festival de Jazz. Campeche has a Festival del Centro Histórico in November and December, which attracts over 5,000 artists, intellectuals and academics to over 800 events such as concerts, theater, dance, book presentations, and workshops. The Festival de Jazz was begun in 1999 and has had the participation of figures such as Mike Stern, Caribbean Jazz Project, Yazzkin, Chano Domínguez, Eugenio Toussaint, David Gilmore and Scott Henderson . One notable economic fair outside of the city is the “Jipi” Sombrero Festival in Bécal in April and May.
Communications and Transportation
The state has eighteen radio station (fifteen commercial), seventeen television channels, one of which is local, ten from Mexico City
and the rest cable or satellite, and four local newspapers, along with various from Mexico City. Telephone service is still mostly landline but cellular infrastructure is growing. The state has 3,872.69 km of highway, about a third of which is federal, connecting urban areas. There are eight nine main bridges, most of which are just to the south of the city of Campeche and near Ciudad del Carmen. The two largest are the Puente de la Unidad
and Zacatal, which connect Ciudad del Carmen with the mainland. Other important bridges exist in Champotón, Candelaria and Palizada.