Usumacinta River

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The Usumacinta River is a river in southeastern Mexico and northwestern Guatemala. It is formed by the junction of the Pasión River, which arises in the Sierra de Santa Cruz (in Guatemala) and the Salinas River, also known as the Chixoy, or the Negro, which descends from the Sierra Madre de Guatemala. It defines part of the border between Guatemala and the Mexican state of Chiapas, then continues its northwesterly course, meandering through the Mexican state of Tabasco to the Gulf of Mexico. The total length of the river, including the Salinas, Chixoy, Negro rivers in Guatemala is approximately 1,000 km (600 miles). It is the only visible natural boundary separating the Yucatán Peninsula from Mexico.


The river and its tributaries were important trade routes for the ancient Maya civilization. Yaxchilan and Piedras Negras, two of the most powerful cities of the Maya Classic Period, lie along its banks.

Before roads, such as the Border Highway constructed by the Mexican Government in the early 1990s, penetrated the jungle, the river was the only means of travel in this region. Huge trunks of hardwood trees were floated downriver to the state of Tabasco.

In the 1980s, many Guatemalan refugees fled across the river to relative safety in Mexico. Other groups of refugees and Guatemalan guerrillas formed the so-called CPR communities in the jungle on the Guatemalan shores, hiding from the government until the peace...
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