Tzotzil of San Andres Larraínzar - Settlements

There exist no clear data about the precolonial settlement pattern in San Andrés, but it seems that the Andreseros lived in compounds and hamlets based on patrilineages. Today the land is normally inherited by the sons of the family head, and women move into the compounds of their husbands. With the exception of some marginal plots, forests, and pastureland that are still communally held, the landholding pattern has been transformed into one resembling private property—at least insofar as Andreseros now build fences around their plots. Nevertheless, most of the land in San Andres remains terreno comunal: there are no private land titles, and the land cannot be sold. The scarcity of land was already evident in 1960, when the average amount of land per proprietor was 3.82 hectares. It must be remembered that Ladino landowners often held titles to large plots, frequently divided among their family members. San Andrés never faced the problem of huge fincas, such as those found in Pantelhó and other highland villages.

Houses are usually rectangular constructions with a roof made of tile, fiber cement, sheet metal, or grass. Walls are generally wooden or of various types of mud construction. Cement-block or brick constructions were introduced to the more accessible hamlets in the late twentieth century. Use of the latter is widely favored by the Indians but depends heavily on income. The traditional grass roof is rarely built because it is now very difficult to obtain sufficient grass. The normal compound contains one or more multifunctional houses, which include a kitchen, a sleeping room, and, more often than not, a granary. Sometimes separate kitchen houses or granaries are constructed.

The plan of the house symbolizes the shape of the earth, a rectangle. Its four main posts ( yoyal na ), which support the roof, symbolize the four pillars of the sky ( yoyal vinahel ); the four pillars are located at the four corners of the earth to support the sky. The center of the world, which—according to the oral tradition of the village—is San Andrés itself, has its counterpart in the center of the house, where the fireplace is usually located. Here, during the opening ceremony of the new house, the Andreseros bury bones of animals as offerings to the gods.

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