People of Chiapas - Page 1

 

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There is a large amount of excellent information about Chiapas online so only a brief coverage is included here.  We have quoted from books and websites and recommend reading the sources to get a much fuller explanation.  All references are given at the bottom of the page and the websites are also listed on the Links page.

Because we are usually working with impoverished people we most often work with indigenous populations and so have restricted our information to those groups.  Here are 2 quotes from an excellent website:

“Chiapas has one of the largest and most diverse indigenous populations with approximately 959,066 indigenous language speakers over the age of five, or 27% of the state’s population. It is home to nine major ethnicities and was a center of Mayan Empire with ceremonial city centers in Palenque and Yaxchilán. However, it is second only to Oaxaca in both indigenous population size and that population’s marginality in terms of socio-economic development.”

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“The main indigenous groups in Chiapas in descending population order are Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Ch’ol, Mam, Tojolabal, Zoques, Kanjobal, and Mayas Lacandones (Hach Winik). The most populated regions of Chiapas are the Altos and the Centro which include the capital of San Cristobal de las Casas and Tuxla Gutiérrez and the region of Soconusco, an area known for its coffee plantations.” http://www.travelchiapas.com/about/about-20.php


Mayans today are struggling to be a modern people without loosing any more of their rich tradition and culture.


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They are primarily engaged in farming, using a method of shifting cultivation that is the most effective for the region.

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“...inhabitants of both regions (highland and lowland) depend upon the burning of unwanted vegetation and upon rest periods for farm plots. The moderate fallowing practiced in the highlands depends upon the position of the field on the slope, with only about 10 years of continuous cultivation possible in higher fields, after which the plot must be abandoned for as much as 15 years, while further down up to 15 years of continuous use with only a 5-year rest is practicable.

Several kinds of maize are planted over the year; tilling is by furrowing and, after the sprouts have appeared, by making hillocks. In these maize fields, or milpas, secondary crops like beans and squashes, or sweet manioc, are interplanted, as well as chili peppers of many sizes, colors, and degrees of ‘hotness’. In summary...the highland system of agriculture seems to be well adapted to an area of high population with good, deep soils...”

From The Maya, page 15, by Michael D. Coe, 1987 Thames and Hudson Inc., New York

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“Rainfall and temperature determine what other types of crops, including coffee, sugar cane, citrus, and bananas, can be cultivated. Therefore, in addition to the major food crops of maize, beans, squash and chiles, many Tzeltals cultivate sugar cane, coffee, and tropical fruits. Some Tzeltal families earn their living from craft production: ceramics in Amatenango, embroideries in Aguacatenango and Pamalha, and weavings in Tenejapa.”

http://www.mexicantextiles.com/grouppages/tzeltal.html

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Pigs, chickens, turkeys, and sometimes cattle are raised for meat and sheep for wool.

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The wool is spun and woven into the colourful garments to be found in the markets and in the traditional clothing. Many women still wear the traditional clothing which differs from group to group. Men only wear traditional clothing for ceremony and while completing their volunteer duty for the community. Otherwise they wear “westernized” clothing.

 

 

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Go to Page 2 (The Market, Ceremonies)