Tzotzil of San Andres Larraínzar - Orientation

Identification. "Batz'i vinik"—"real men" or "real people" —is the label Andreseros use to distinguish themselves from Ladinos, the Spanish-speaking Mexicans of the area. Although they also refer to other Tzotzil-speaking Indians as "Batz'i vinik," the Andreseros use "Yahval lum"—"owner of the land" or "owner of the village"—only for people belonging to their community, San Andres Larraínzar. Today these labels are often replaced by the term "Andreseros," which refers to the colonial name of the village, "San Andrés Istacostoc," or, since 1933, "Larraínzar" or "San Andres Larraínzar." Unofficially, the name "San Andrés Chamula" was also used for a long time, but today only "San Andres Larraínzar"—or among the Andreseros themselves simply "San Andrés"—is used. "Tzotzil," which can be freely translated as "the people of the bat," refers to their language group, and it is spoken in other villages as well. Today the most common term used by the people of San Andres is "Andreseros," which is also the label used in the anthropological literature.

Location. San Andres Larraínzar is one of several municipios in the highlands of Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico. San Andrés Larraínzar, like most other communities in highland Chiapas, consists of a central village and several hamlets. Altogether, the municipio comprises an area of 22,517 hectares. The central village is located at 16°53′ N and 92°43′ E. It is situated at an elevation of 2,100 meters in sikil osil ("cold land"), but some hamlets also have access to k'ixin osil ("hot land"), where coffee as well as bananas and citrus fruits can be cultivated. In tierra fría, the Spanish term for the cold area, mainly maize is grown in the milpa, a field where maize, beans, and squash are usually cultivated together. In the late twentieth century maize has often been produced in monoculture; cabbage and flowers are planted, both as cash crops to be sold in San Cristóbal de las Casas, the nearest city. This is a response to enhanced marketing possibilities but also to growing land scarcity. There is essentially one rainy season from around June to November. The annual rainfall ranges from 100 to 120 centimeters per year. The temperature during the dry season can range from 3°C to 23°C, but can go as high as 40°C during the day. The highlands of Chiapas are a botanically unique area. Various plant species are found only in this area throughout the Americas. Common problems of the area include increasing population density, unequal distribution of land, and, as a result, deforestation, land erosion, and a reduction of the biodiversity. Larger mammals such as deer, which the Andreseros used to hunt, have become very rare; their hunting stories now focus on raccoons, rabbits, and opossums. Larger carnivores such as jaguars are also extinct.

Demography. William Holland (1963) reported that there were 7,285 inhabitants of San Andrés in 1960. Of these, 608 were Ladinos, living in the main village. For the entire Tzotzil population, gives a figure of 182,815 people. According to the 1990 government census, the population of San Andres Larraínzar was 15,303, including approximately 30 Ladinos. The population density increased from around 0.3 persons to almost 0.7 persons per hectare.

Linguistic Affiliation. Tzotzil is a Maya language and belongs to the Tzeltalan Group, which includes Tzotzil, Tzeltal, and Tojolab'al. Tzotzil has a number of mutually understandable dialects. Each village uses a different dialect, but there are also several dialects spoken within larger villages. The Andreseros are well aware of the fact that the Tzotzil spoken in their village differs from that spoken in other villages, and local dialects are often the target of jokes. Differences are not only in pronunciation or intonation, but also in vocabulary, grammar, word choice, and entire interaction schemes. Nowadays only older people are monolingual; most Tzotzil know at least some Spanish, and some also know some Tzeltal, the most closely related Maya language. Tzotzil is the predominant language in the main village, however, and is also dominant in the hamlets.

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