info en español de Tzotziles - "Batsil Winik" Otik y Tzeltales - "Winik Atel
© 2004 Instituto Lingüístico de Verano, A.C.
info in English about the Maya language and it´s sub groups inclding Tzetales
© 2004 Instituto Lingüístico de Verano, A.C.
Info en español de la lingua Maya y sus sub linguas incluyendo Tzetales
Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México
Info en español de districto de Amatenango
Info en español de districto de Chanal
Info en español de districto de Oxchuc
Info en español de districto de Tenejapa
The Tzeltal people, known to themselves as "Winik atel" ("working men") live in the east central highlands of the state of Chiapas. The closely-related Tzotzil people occupy the lands to the west of Tzeltal territory; to the north, their neighbors are the Maya-speaking Chol people (the 3rd largest indigenous group in Chiapas); and to the east are the Tojolobal and Lacandon peoples, also Maya speakers. The Tzeltal language "Batsil K'op" has at least six major dialects and many sub-dialects. The Tzeltal population is concentrated in 20 municipios. Tzeltal people make up about 34 percent of the total indigenous population of Chiapas. According to Mexico's 2000 census, approximately 279,000 people (over five years old) spoke the Tzeltal language. Together, the Tzeltals and Tzotzils comprise about 70 percent of Chiapas' indigenous population.

Most Tzeltal families make a living by farming and raising animals. In general, the traditional lands of the Tzeltals lie at lower elevations than the lands of the Tzotzils. Therefore, in addition to the major food crops of maize, beans, squash and chiles, many Tzeltals cultivate sugar cane, coffee, and tropical fruits. Some Tzeltal families earn their living from craft production: ceramics in Amatenango, embroideries in Aguacatenango and Pamalha, and weavings in Tenejapa. Boys and men of the communities also engage in wage labor performing agricultural or construction work. Hundreds of Tzeltal families have followed the river valleys and roads into the Lacandon forest in search of land to farm.

Tzeltal communities have the same dispersed settlement pattern as Tzotzil communities - a central town with schools, shops, services, and a periodic market - surrounded by hamlets where most people live. The large Mestizo town of Ocosingo is located in the middle of Tzeltal territory and serves as the commercial and transportation center for many Tzeltal people. Each Tzeltal community has its own traditional styles of dress, which serves to distinguish people from different communities. Tzeltal women wear a costume consisting of huipil or blouse, wrap skirt, and hand-woven sash that is similar to the dress of Tzotzil women. Women in Oxchuc and Cancuc wear long huipiles that are worn outside their skirts. This differs from the style of clothing found in other Tzeltal areas, but is similar to the costume worn by Tzotzil women of Chalchihuitan. In many communities only older men and cargo-holders still wear traditional male dress.

Tzeltal religion is a blend of Catholic and highland Maya religious beliefs, and the Spanish-imposed system of religious cargos remains strong in some communities.

As among the Tzotzil people, thousands of Tzeltal families have abandoned traditional Catholicism and joined a wide variety of Protestant denominations.

Autonomous Zapatista communities are scattered throughout Tzeltal municipios. These self-governing communities reject government aid and services. At present, many Zapatista rebels, along with Sub-Comandante Marcos, occupy lands adjacent to Tzeltal territory and are quite active in the Ocosingo and Altamirano regions. For this reason, paramilitary forces have camps in some pro-government Tzeltal municipios. It is generally safe to travel the main roads through the Tzeltal region. Photographs of people should only be taken after obtaining their prior permission, and visitors to individual towns must check with local authorities before taking photographs in public spaces.