Pahntelo, Chiapas a Tzotzil village.
Web gallery by Bob Freund
with particiaption of Karen Elwell and Tom Aleto, Narratives by Karen Elwell 9/2005
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Pantelho is a long, long way from San Cristobal. We tried to drive there in April 2003 and failed. The paved road to Pantelho leaves Chamula and descends past Mitontic and Chenalho. Past Chenalho, the road gets kind of lonely. There are fewer settlements and more burned-out buses and cars alongside the road. Eventually, a wide, paved and well-marked side road leads to Chalchihuitan. In several places, there are Army encampments next to the road, but we were never stopped by the military. It was raining when we left Chenalho, and the rain became torrential as we descended in elevation. Our vision was obscured by thick fog, and we could hardly see the road. Suddenly, a large billboard appeared out of the fog. The sign announced that we had reached the Zapatista Municipio Autonomo of Polho. At that time, we believed that all the Zapatistas were holed-up with Marcos in the Lacandon forest, so the sight of people with bandanas covering their faces was a real shocker. We stopped a fellow on the road and asked how far to Pantelho. “Another 20 minutes” he said. The weather was too bad to drive on, so we made our way back to San Cristobal. Had we gone on a little further, we would have reached Acteal, site of the terrible 1997 massacre. Many of the survivors from Acteal now live in Polho.

Years ago, we bought a Pantelho huipil in Tulum, and in 1993 we purchased weavings at a Pantelho coop store in San Cristobal. This store was still in business in April 2003. We were shopping there one afternoon when some women and children arrived from Pantelho bringing more textiles to sell. The adult women were dressed in beautiful, gauzey, two-web Pantelho huipiles with their delicate brocaded designs. Their teenaged daughters were dressed like Britney Spears. We asked a woman if she had a huipil to sell, and she produced a gorgeous huipil, which we bought. When we visited San Cristobal in 2005, the store was abandoned, and all the textiles were gone.

In 2003 we purchased a Pantelho man’s shirt and red-striped cotton sash at the “El Encuentro” shop in San Cristobal. The men’s shirts from Pantelho are unusual because the backs of the shirts are much longer than their fronts. Very short white cotton pants are worn by Pantelho men, as in Cancuc and Oxchuc.

Pantelho lies at a much lower elevation than most Tzotzil communities. We have read that many Tzeltal people now live in Pantelho, but make ceramics, not textiles. The huipiles and decorative textiles are woven by the original Tzotzil inhabitants of the region.