The Tzotzil people is also with the Tzetal, relative of the Maya. This civilization inhabited mainly the south of Mexico, but also the Central American countries of Guatemala and Belize. This is why some of the embroideries of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal communities are very similar to those of Guatemala and Belize. The Tzotziles call themselves Batsi winik'otik, "real men". The word Tzotzil derives from sots'il winik, which means "bat man.". It is said that the ancestors of the Zinacantecos found a bat on this fertile plain and took it for God. The Institute for Indigenous Language, Art and Literature (CELALI) suggested in 2002 that the name of the language (and the community) be spelled Tsotsil, rather than Tzotzil.
This community participated in various revolutionary events in the 1990s, such as the creation of the Zapatista Army EZLN, made up of indigenous communities in Chiapas (Tojolabales, Tzeltales, Tsotsiles, Tojolabales and Choles) that to this day defends the interference in their lands and the invasion of foreigners and nationals. After the Acteal event in 1994, the formation of the Civil Society "Las Abejas" was recognized. It is an association that limits to shed light on the violence committed and of which our collaborators, the cooperative JVAYCHIL, are members. Find out more in our article here.
The traditional territory of Tzotzil is located to the northwest and southwest of the city of San Cristobal. Tzotzil is spoken in the communities of El Bosque, Chalchihuitán, Chamula, Chenalhó, Huixtán, Mitontic, Zinacantán, Larráinzar, Pantelhó, Huitiupán, Simojovel de Allende, Totolapa, Jitotol, Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacán, Bochil Ixtapa, Teopisca, and San Cristóbal de Las Casas.
Among the Tzotziles, illness is seen as a punishment for transgressing traditional social patterns. There are natural and supernatural diseases. The former are all those that do not cause great suffering or disability. The latter are serious illnesses that are considered punishments for transgressing social norms. In the communities, they consider that the disease can also come from witchcraft. Envy is a powerful source that feeds it. A classic example is when someone is poor because he has no maize and beans to eat, no land or animals, he envies those who are rich and healthy. To be safe from spells, the individual must not become excessively rich and must respect the property and rights of neighbours.
As far as handicrafts are concerned, each region specializes in making one type of handicraft, but in general, the making of handloom fabrics with traditional Mayan designs stands out. The women make huipiles, shirts and napkins for their own use or for sale. The textiles of Tenejapa, Pantelhó, Larráinzar and Chenalhó also stand out. In Chamula, women make wool jackets and in Zinacantán, beautifully embroidered yarn ponchos.
Traditionally, authority is acquired with old age, so in the Tzotzil organization, the oldest man is the one who controls the agricultural activities and the group.
A very important characteristic in the communities of Chiapas is that the affairs of the community are governed by their own powers. Therefore, the power of government in the community does not exist. The power to govern remains within the community.
The concepts and values of the Tzotzil man revolve around the corn. Human life is conceived thanks to it. It is considered a source of social prestige: am'tel, "to work", refers to the activities related to the cultivation of corn. The man who knows how to work is the one who has a lot of corn. Education is conceived as a slow acquisition of the soul, which is analogous to the totality of consciousness. The soul matures by learning to become a good corn farmer.
As for religion, the cultural elements of indigenous deities are mixed with elements of the Catholic religion. On the one hand, there is a priestly hierarchy linked to the cult of Catholic saints and, on the other hand, there are a number of 'iloletik' or healers whose function is to intervene for people in the supernatural world. They carry out individual healing and conduct collective ceremonies.
Today, evangelical religions have gained ground in the Tzotzil community. In addition, a small part of the Tzotzil population practices Islam.
The relationship between a man and a woman living openly without any marriage ceremony is legally and socially equivalent to marriage in terms of the property and inheritance rights of the couple and their children. If such a couple later separates, the rights of their children to receive support and inheritance from both biological parents continue.
The important celebrations of the community are again the feasts of the patron saints, in which the saints who govern the community are celebrated as:
-Saint Michael the Archangel
Illustrates the popular syncretistic Catholicism. San Miguel has 2 holidays, one in early May and one in late September, for the local rainy season. He is clearly seen as a "God of Rain".
The beginning of Lent is marked by a disguised dance-drama that recreates the Spanish conquest of Chiapas. The images of the saints are dressed in indigenous clothing.