Chiapa de Corzo’s Fiesta de Los Parachicos is held every January, and is part of a month-long celebration known as Fiesta Grande. The Parachicos celebration has been named by UNESCO as an item of intangible cultural heritage and is often described as the best mestizo festival in southeastern Mexico. Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Latin America for people of duel heritage, often meaning a mixture of European and Amerindian.
The Parachicos’ masks are made with cedar or Guanacaste, an endemic tree, and carved to resemble the European features of a Spaniard, and then lacquered with oil obtained from an insect called aje. Their wigs, adorned with flowers and ribbons, are made with ixtle, a rough fiber derived from agave plants.
According to legend, in 1711, during Mexico’s Spanish Colonial era, Dona Maria de Angula was a rich Spanish woman who traveled to Chiapa de Corzo in search of a cure for a mysterious paralytic illness afflicting her son, which no doctor could cure. When she arrived, she was directed to a curandero, a local healer, who examined the boy, and instructed his mother to bathe him in the waters of a small lake. To amuse the boy, a local group disguised themselves as Spaniards with masks and began to dance, explaining “para el chico,” which means “for the boy.” The child was cured and the tradition now known as Parachicos endures today.