Totonac - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Community identity is not always related to ethnic identity because various locations have multiethnic populations. The most important obligation to the community is communal labor, but this tradition has been weakened in some areas owing to religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants.

Political Organization. All Totonac communities have elected political authorities, but the political process itself is subject to outside control. Indian participation varies greatly from one location to another. Those who are elected to office tend to speak Spanish and to have migratory experience and at least a grade-school education. Religious and civil hierarchies were once united in all the communities; they are now separate, but this development is more recent in some areas than in others.

Social Control. Municipal authorities are responsible for maintaining peace in the communities. Officials rely not only on their limited knowledge of the Mexican penal code but also base decisions on local customs that establish the parameters of socially acceptable conduct. The influence of elders was once important but has been greatly weakened. When offenders commit major crimes, they are now judged and sentenced by higher authorities outside the community.

Conflict. Unequal distribution of land remains a principal cause of conflict. Agrarian struggles continue, and political parties have become involved in them. Peasant movements are widespread. Elections are highly contested, and factionalism is prevalent. The federal government all too often resorts to force to end conflicts. Violence is commonplace; the charge on which Totonac are most frequently incarcerated is homicide.

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