Ch'ol - Sociopolitical Organization

Ejido settlements are governed by prescribed structures (an ejido commissioner and councils) but often function more democratically, with men meeting daily for public discussions and weekly more formal public assemblies, decisions being made by consensus. Religious authorities exercise considerable influence over community members. Highland and urban settlements have legally prescribed systems of governance under federal law, balanced against a traditional cargo system. The latter now has mainly religious functions but nonetheless constitutes a political power base capable of opposing civil authority.

Social Organization. The traditional cargo system ( ch'ujulbä e'tel , "holy work") survives best in Tila. There, more than fifty citizens at a time hold ritual offices for one-year terms, organizing festivals, caring for sacred images, and receiving and interceding on petitions from supplicants, including pilgrims from outside the community. Marriage is a prerequisite for these offices, and cargo holders' wives have ritual obligations.

In Tila, each saint represented in the central cathedral has a mayordomo, and ritual advisors and assistants fill out the ranks of the cargo holders. Men who have passed through various offices gain the status of respected elders (local Spanish: tatuches ; Ch'ol: lak tatna'ob , literally "our ancestors"). In Tumbala, religious cargos are partially merged with political offices.

Political Organization. Outside the ejidos, the political organization prescribed by federal law is the ayuntamiento, headed by the presidente municipal. In Tila, this organization is balanced against the cargo holders and the official church hierarchy (bishop, priests, etc.), who mediate problems informally. In Tumbala, the state-sanctioned offices have largely replaced the political roles of cargo holders.

Conflict and Social Control. Social control is accomplished through socialization. Individuals believe they are responsible for their acts, not only to others but to the supernatural world. Consequently, bad actions will result in illness and other forms of supernatural discipline.

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