Tzotzil of San Bartolomé de los Llanos - Orientation

Identification and Location. San Bartolomé de los Llanos is the capital of the municipio of Venustiano Carranza, near the center of the Mexican state of Chiapas. The population of the town, which is also called San Bartolomé Venustiano Carranza, is half Tzotzil and half Ladino (Spanish speakers of mixed Indian, Spanish, and African ancestry). More than half the remainder of the population of the municipio is non-Indian. The Tzeltal-speaking Indian community of Aguacatenango occupies a corner of the municipio lands, but maintains a separate identity. The municipio also includes a large sugar-mill community at Pujiltic, and several Ladino towns.

The town is built on a side ridge of an extinct volcano, about 800 meters in elevation; the lower end of the town is in the temperate climatic zone. Most of the other lands of the municipio are in the plains ( los llanos ) — hence the community name—immediately north of the Río Grijalva. The average elevation in the plains is less than 500 meters, fully within the hot tropical climatic zone.

Demography. There were approximately 7,500 Tzotzil in the municipio in 1960, about 5,000 of whom had their principal residence in the town center. In 1990 there were between 8,000 and 10,000 Tzotzil living in the town center and in a new settlement next to it, and perhaps another 8,000 to 10,000 living in the rest of the municipio. Official census figures are not reliable, and numbers cited here are estimates by anthropological field workers and knowledgeable residents.

Linguistic Affiliation. Tzotzil is a major language of the Maya Family, which is spoken by more than 150,000 Indians in Chiapas. Its closest linguistic relative is Tzeltal, spoken by about the same number of people in adjacent parts of Chiapas. San Bartolomé Tzotzil is unique among Highland Chiapas dialects in possessing phonemic tones. It is the language of the home and the first language learned by the Indians of San Bartolomé, but all adults can also speak Spanish. Indian women are usually more at ease speaking Spanish than are Indian men, contrasting sharply with the pattern in most Chiapas Indian communities.

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