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Tzeltal woman weaving

The Tzeltales and Tzotziles belong to the large Mayan family which originally was an emigrated branch from the High Cuchumatanes in Guatemala to the Upper Chiapas. They began to settle in the Altos de Chiapas between 500 and 750 BC. From 1200 onwards, the differentiation of languages and regions is part of the varied settlement patterns of the Tzotziles and Tzeltales, within a Mexican system called "uses and customs" that seeks to respect traditional indigenous authority and politics. The Tzeltales define themselves as "those of the original word", batzil k'op in the Mayan language.


Currently, they constitute the ethnic majority in Chiapas and 34% of the total indigenous population of the state. Most of them live in the central area of Los Altos, which has an indigenous population of between 70 and 100%. The mestizo population of the region is mainly concentrated in the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas and in some municipalities such as Teopisca, Yajalón, Chilón, Bachajón, Pantelho, Ocosingo, Altamirano, Cancuc, Tenejapa, Oxchuk, Huixtán, Amatenango and Teopisca.


In the Tzeltal worldview, their world is composed of a cosmos (chul chan), mother earth (lum balumilal or chul balumilal) and the underworld (k'atimbak). The balance and harmony between these three spaces are rewarded by the protective deities of the universe: the Sun, the Moon and the Mountains.

The Tzeltal community custom is the culture of the people. It represents indigenous beliefs and knowledge, practices and technologies. Knowing how to live in harmony and within a frame of reference based on the notions of respect, work, assembly, not to mention a special sense of bringing the soul to the body and knowing how to manifest itself, which identifies a good person.

Within the regional market, each community has a specialty in craft making. The Tzeltales of Amatenango make clay artifacts and The women of Aguacatenango are famous for their white embroidery of blouses, dresses, nightgowns, tablecloths and trousers on loom fabrics, giving an almost transparent cotton texture. Among the handicrafts, the manufacture of cloth at the waist has an enormous ethnocultural value for its traditional creations, based on Mayan symbols such as the rhombus (which represents the cosmos)In this art, the Tenejapa women distinguish themselves by the quality of their embroidery. In this art, the women of Tenejapa distinguish themselves by the quality of their embroidery.


One of the most important characteristics of this memory and tradition is that it expresses the sense of sacredness that Mother Earth and nature represent for them. This relationship of respect is characterized by the planting and harvesting of plants and flowers on which traditional medicine depends, and respect for the community and its inhabitants.

As for festivals and traditions, the community of Tzeltal strictly follows the celebration of a calendar, in which they thank Mother Earth for the harvests and give offerings to the patron saints of the community. All the municipalities celebrate the patron saints throughout the year, whether it is San Juan, in Cancuc, or San Ildefonso, in Tenejapa. Among the most emblematic festivals are the carnivals of Tenejapa and Oxchuc.

Also one of the most important festivals in the community is EL CARNAVAL "AKOT WACAX" ("BAILE DEL TORO")) Tenejapa and Oxchuc share with other towns of Los Altos the recreation of the image of the bull as the central character of the carnival celebration at the end of February. The end of the year and the beginning of the new harvest are celebrated. The carnival characters spend a whole week making fun of what is established, starting with the identity of the men who become "Maruchas" (Marías), dressed in women's clothes. Meanwhile, they take care to quench their thirst with the pox, all sitting in circular rows in the square. The bull represents the struggle for life between men. He is persecuted, ironized and he sneaks in and keeps the drama going with his rants until finally, on the last day of the carnival, he is caught and devoured by the participants and the guests of the city (who eat meat from a real bull to symbolize).

In everyday life, there are many conceptions and values of the Tzeltal man that revolve around corn. Human life is conceived thanks to it, and the task in the corn field is a source of social prestige: one such, the notion of work, comes from the corn field and refers to activities related to the cultivation of corn; the man who knows how to work is the one who harvests a lot of corn.

The collective "Malacate taller experimental Textil"is formed by women of this community whose handicrafts are in the solidarity shop.

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