Social and Political Organization. Prior to 1964, each ethnic group had its own political organization, based on a civil-religious hierarchy that supported the power of the elderly. A group of male elders were leaders of all the people. Age-graded positions in Awakateko society were like a ladder upon which the younger males ascended toward a higher level of respect, honor, and authority. A range of age barriers controlled the passing from one political rank to another, enabling the Awakateko male society to postpone the transfer of political power to younger males. The duties of the elders included organizing fiestas and supplying the shamans with goods, food, and services.
After the civil-religious hierarchies lost their power in the early 1960s, national political institutions became the focus of local politics. At first, Ladinos dominated the local political parties and won the elections, but Indians began to wrest control from the Ladino minority. Indian-controlled local wings of national political parties became the important organizers of political power in the municipio in the 1970s. Mild Easterner-Westerner ethnic opposition has emerged in this context.
Social Control and Conflict. Language and isolation are utilized by the Ladinos as a means of controlling the Indian groups. Within the Awakateko groups, authority and punishment are exercised by the elders and shamans of the community.