Tzotzil of Zinacantan - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Until recently the Zinacantecos were almost all agriculturists, growing crops of maize, beans, and squashes, which were cultivated by swidden agriculture using axes, machetes, planting sticks, and hoes. Sheep are owned and herded by women to provide wool for weaving ponchos and shawls. Chickens are kept both for their eggs (to sell) and to eat, especially on ritual occasions. Although families who own sufficient land continue to farm maize, an increasing number of Zinacantecos have gone into a variety of alternative enterprises, such as wage work on highways and in construction, driving trucks and buses, and cultivating flowers and fruit for urban markets. Many Zinacantecos have also become merchants, buying and selling maize, beans, fruit, and flowers. Most households have a mix of off-farm and onfarm production.


Industrial Arts. The most notable craft is weaving, which is performed by women on backstrap looms on which they weave both the cotton and the wool clothing that is worn by both sexes. Zinacanteco clothing is distinctive in the Chiapas highlands, instantly recognizable from the abundant use of red cotton threads and wool dyed bright red. Men weave their hats from white and black strips of palm or plastic, adorning them with long, flowing red ribbons reminiscent of the feathered headdresses worn by the ancient Maya. Women traditionally go barefoot, whereas men wear sandals purchased in San Cristóbal and, on ceremonial occasions, high-backed sandals manufactured by Chamula artisans. In the 1960s many men began to wear purchased, European-style clothing, especially when away from their homes.

Division of Labor. In the Zinacanteco view, men are the maize growers, women the tortilla makers. Men do all of the field work, tend large animals (e.g., the horses or mules used as pack animals), build the houses, hold all of the politicai offices and most of the religious posts. Women cook, fetch water and wood, herd sheep, weave, hold a few of the ritual offices—some shamans and all of the "incense-bearers" are women—and assist their husbands in their cargo duties. Children are cared for by the women, but men assist when they are at home.

Land Tenure. In theory, all land is owned by the ancestors and transmitted to descendants within patrilineages each generation. Although Mexican law stipulates that daughters must also receive shares of the land inheritance, the choice lands for houses and farming are in fact transmitted to sons, whereas daughters (who will be supported by their husbands) are given plots on steep hillsides.


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