Tojolab'al - Orientation

Identification. The Tojolab'al take their name from their language: Tojolab'al ( tojol: legitimate/true; ab'al: word/language). They call themselves "Tojolwinik'otik" (legitimate or real men).

Location. Today the Tojolab'al live mainly in the municipio of Las Margaritas, in Chiapas, Mexico, on the frontier with Guatemala, although there are residential groups in the neighboring municipios of Altamirano, Comitan, Independencia, and La Trinitaria. This was not always so. Their present location is a result of processes of miscegenation, of cultural Ladinization, and—above all—of land expropriation, from which they have suffered at least since the arrival of the Spaniards in their territory in 1528 (a time when they ruled over the area of the valleys of Comitan).

Demography. There is enormous divergence regarding the numerical count of the Tojolab'al. The highest reckonings, which generally duplicate those given in censuses, are those of anthropologists and other scholars who have worked in the area. Based on these, the number of Tojolab'al should be calculated at between 35,000 and 40,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. Tojolab'al belongs to the Maya Language Family; it is closely related to Chuj and more distantly related to Tzeltal, Tzotzil, and Q'anjob'al.

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