Little is known about Colima’s early history except that the Otomi, Nahuatl, Tolteca, Chichimeca and Tarasca cultures flourished there between approximately 2000 B.C and 1000 A.D.
When the Spanish arrived in the area around 1525, much of West Mexico was under the political control of the Kingdom of Tzintuntzan, which was the second largest and most powerful Mesoamerican Empire. Its influence stretched from the state of Mexico into Guanajuato, around the shores of Lake Chapala and through part of Colima to the Pacific coast. The Purépecha, known as the Tarascans by the Spanish conquistadors, occupied the area from about 1100 A.D. to 1530 A.D. along with the Colimas Indians, who are closely related to the Tarascas. King Colimán, the leader of the Colimas, waged a successful war against the Purépechas just before the Spanish arrived, forcing the Purépechas to the southern part of the region.
Led by Juan Rodriguez de Villafuentes, Juan Alvarez Chico and Cristobal de Olid, the Spanish arrived at Colima in 1522. King Colimán, recognizing the threat presented by the conquistadors, resisted the incursion. The indigenous forces initially won battles at Trojes, Paso de Alima and Toluca, but in 1523 they lost a decisive battle against Gonzalo de Sandoval at Caxita¡n. Sandoval immediately established a Spanish settlement, San Sebastian de Colima, in what is now the city of Colima. In 1524, Don Francisco Cortés de San Buenaventura arrived and became the city’s first mayor.
Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza visited the city of Colima in 1540 and ordered the construction of a royal road between Colima and Mexico City. The new route quickly made Colima a vital center of commerce. The port city of Manzanillo, with its central location on the Pacific coast, also played a key role in gathering and transporting goods for the Spanish crown.
When the fight for Mexican independence began in 1810, Colima priest Jose Antonio Diaz led a group of revolutionaries in support of Miguel Hidalgo. A relatively small number of royal troops occupied the region when hostilities began, and they were easily defeated by the rebels. Afterward, little military action took place in Colima. In 1821, the Plan of Iguala established the direction for an independent Mexico. When Spain signed the Treaty of Córdoba later that year, Colima and the other Mexican territories formally gained their independence.
Colima was made a Mexican state in 1857. Less than ten years later, Mexico’s President Benito JuÃƒÂ¡rez, refusing to recognize French authority, moved the seat of government to Colima (1864-1867) and other locations until the French were driven from power and the capital returned to Mexico City.
Porfirio Díaz served as president from 1877 to 1880 and again from 1884 to 1911. Under his leadership, the region saw great economic growth. Díaz ordered the construction of roads, railroads and communications networks. The improved infrastructure significantly strengthened Colima’s economic ties with Mexico City.
The Mexican Revolution that began in 1910 brought political instability to Colima as factions loyal to various revolutionary and anti-revolutionary leaders operated throughout the state. In the 1920s, the military conflict subsided as the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) rose to power, dominating political life for the rest of the 20th century. Colima, along with the rest of the country, finally enjoyed some measure of peace.
In 1998, Colima’s governor declared the town of Comala a Historical Monument Zone. In 2002, it joined the Magic Towns of Mexico, a program of the Tourism Ministry that advocates economic development while restoring and preserving each region’s cultural heritage.
The state ranks first in the production of lemon oil and second in the production of iron, which is processed at Cardenas. The region also manufactures beverages (including dairy products), metal products, food preservatives and wooden furniture.
Colima’s main crops are the Mexican lemon, melons, mangoes, papaya, watermelon, yellow seedless watermelons and bananas. Other crops include corn, sugar cane, jalapeno chilies, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. Palms are grown for landscaping and for their fibers, which are used to weave hats, placemats, floor mats and other items. The abundance of palms gives Colima City the nickname City of Palms.
The people of Colima enjoy visiting its beautiful beaches, such as Manzanillo, El Paraiso and Cuyutian.
Facts & Figures
- Capital: Colima
- Major Cities (population): Manzanillo (137,842) Villa de Álvarez (100,121) Colima (132,273) Tecomán (98,150) Cuauhtémoc (25,576)
- Size/Area: 2,106 square miles
- Population: 567,996 (2005 Census)
- Year of statehood: 1857
- The central element of Colima’s coat of arms is a Mayan hieroglyph of a human arm, symbolizing the power of the elders who ruled the people. Surrounding the shield are images evoking the region’s ecosystem: jaguars, marine snails, palm trees and volcanoes.
- In 2003, Colima received a federal grant to establish the Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve along the Jalisco border. The biosphere protects 40 percent of Mexico’s native plant species (over 2,700 varieties), about one-fourth of the country’s mammal species and one-third of its bird species. Carey turtles, coyotes, wild hogs and foxes find refuge within the biosphere’s borders.
- Tecomán, a city near the Pacific coast, is known as the World’s Lemon Capital. Even though the area under cultivation is relatively small (19,000 hectares or 73 square miles), the state of Colima leads the country in lemon production. A variety originally imported from Europe thrived in Colima and is now known as the Mexican Lemon. Colima has been exporting lemons to California and Florida since the 19th century.
- The state’s long Pacific coastline yields a year-round supply of fresh delicacies from the sea that are used in local cuisine. Colima’s ceviche is made from finely chopped fish combined with tomatoes, chilies and grated carrots. Another favorite seafood dish is callo de hacha, scallops tossed with strips of red onion and chilies marinated in fresh lime juice and served with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.
- Manzanillo draws fishermen from around the world in pursuit of the area’s abundant sailfish. Deep-sea fishing expeditions also bring in black, blue and striped marlin.
- Ceramic artifacts known as perros cebados (round dogs) have been discovered in abundance throughout Colima. Many sculptures have been found inside tiros, tombs constructed as shafts. While the purpose of the perros cebados is uncertain, they may have had been placed in tombs to guide the departed soul safely to the next world. The famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo featured Colima’s famous symbol in several of her paintings.
Two volcanoes are located in a national park 25 miles north of the city of Colima. The Nevado de Colima is dormant, but the Volcan de Fuego is an active stratovolcano, the most explosive and dangerous in all of Mexico. Tours of the area take visitors through a lush landscape of palm forests filled with exotic birds.
The state’s coastline, nearly 160 kilometers (100 miles) in length, offers many beaches for recreation. Some of the best waves on the Pacific Coast are found in Colima, enticing experienced surfers from around the globe to confront the huge swells. The water is a shimmering turquoise-blue, and the beaches are rarely crowded.
One of the more popular beaches is Cuyutlán, famous for its Green Wave. Plankton and algae give the water its luminescent green color.
The Salt Museum
Cuyutlán is home to the Salt Museum, which honors the region’s most important economic activity: the extraction of salt. Pictures, tools and other displays teach visitors about the mining process, the lives of the workers and the history of salt production in the area.
Manzanillo and Colima
Manzanillo is Mexico’s main Pacific coast port where cargo is unloaded from ships and then sent by rail to Mexico City, Guadalajara and Aguascalientes; local goods flow out of the port to consumers around the world.
Manzanillo is also a major resort area known for the Isla Navidad, a golf course designed and constructed by the prestigious architect Robert Von Hagge. International tournaments draw top-tier golfers to the city, while both golf pros and recreational golfers benefit from instruction at the resort’s International School of Golf.
One of Colima’s chief landmarks is a monument to King Colimán. This statue pays tribute to the area’s native leader who fought valiantly against the Spanish invasion.