The Tzotzil people are also with the Tzetal, relatives of the Maya. This civilization inhabited mainly southern 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, meaning “bat man”. It is said that the ancestors of the Zinacantecos found a bat in 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 community) be spelled Tsotsil, rather than Tzotzil.
This community participated in various revolutionary events in the 1990s, such as the creation of the EZLN Zapatista Army, composed of indigenous communities in Chiapas (Tojolabales, Tzeltales, Tsotsiles, Tojolabales and Choles), which to this day still defends interference in their lands and the invasion of foreigners and nationals. After the event in Acteal in 1994, the formation of the Civil Society “Las Abejas” is recognized. It is an association that limits so that the light is shed on the violence committed and of which our collaborators, the JVAYCHIL cooperative are members. Find out more in our article here.
The traditional territory of the Tzotzil is located northwest and southwest of the city of San Cristóbal. 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, the disease 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 diseases considered punishment for transgression of 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 they have no corn and beans to eat, no land or animals, they envy those who are rich and healthy. In order to be safe from spells, the individual must not become excessively rich and must respect the property and rights of neighbors.
As far as handicrafts are concerned, each region is specialized in the elaboration of a type of craft, but in general, the elaboration of loom fabrics with traditional Mayan motifs stands out. Women make huipiles, shirts and napkins for their own use or for sale. Textiles from Tenejapa, Pantelhó, Larráinzar and Chenalhó also stand out. In Chamula, women make wool jackets and in Zinacantán, beautifully embroidered thread ponchos.
Traditionally, authority is acquired with old age, therefore in the Tzotzil organization; the oldest man is the one who controls the agricultural activities and the group.
A very important characteristic in Chiapas communities is that community affairs are governed by their own powers. Therefore, the power of the 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 corn. Human life is conceived thanks to it. It is considered a source of social prestige: am’tel, “to work”, refers to 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 reaches maturity by learning to become a good corn farmer.
As for religion, the cultural elements of the indigenous deities are mixed with elements of the Catholic religion. On the one hand, there is a priestly hierarchy linked to the worship of Catholic saints and, on the other hand, there are a number of “iloletik” or healers whose function is to intervene on behalf of men in the supernatural world. They carry out individual healing and conduct collective ceremonies.
Today, evangelical religions have gained ground within 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 with respect to the property and inheritance rights of the couple and their children. If such a couple later separates, the rights of their children to receive the support and inheritance of 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 popular syncretist Catholicism. San Miguel has 2 holidays, one at the beginning of May and the other at the end of 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 conquest of Chiapas by Spain. Images of the saints are dressed in indigenous clothing.