Tzotzil and Tzeltal of Pantelhó - History and Cultural Relations



The highlands of Chiapas were conquered in 1524 by the Spaniard Luis Marín. The administrators of Spanish-imposed institutions, such as encomienda and repartimiento , forced the indigenous populations to provide labor and tribute. In 1712 Indians in the Chiapan highlands revolted, marking the beginning of Indian militancy in Pantelhó. The uprising was quickly suppressed, but, because of their participation, the Indians of Pantelhó were exiled for eighty-four years. Chiapas became part of Mexico in 1824, and, as Mexico liberalized agrarian legislation over the course of the nineteenth century, the indigenous population became landless agricultural workers (peons) on newly established Ladino ranches (haciendas). In their terms, they had become the "slaves" of the Ladinos.

The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) ushered in a new era. The constitution of 1917 established the possibility of obtaining land ( ejidos; see "Land Tenure") expropriated from large Ladino ranches; however, the Indians' struggle for land was long and bitter. Ladino ranchers resisted expropriation through legal actions and by force of arms. Deaths occurred on both sides, and ethnic antagonisms were reinforced. The first ejidos were not granted until the 1940s, and Ladinos managed to maintain control of the majority of the land until the 1980s. Throughout most of the twentieth century, the Indians remained poor and landless, but in the 1980s a combination of political and economic factors changed landholding patterns. The first Indian mayor was elected in 1982. Indians gained control of the land through land reform and through sales made by Ladinos under the threat of increasing Indian militancy. By 1990, Indians controlled 90 percent of the land.

Many other changes occurred in the 1980s as well: Indians from nearby municipios immigrated in large numbers, new communities were created on former Ladino ranches, and Protestant groups entered the area and gained converts.


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