Many Tzotzil women and girls in Zinacantan, San Andres, and Chamula weave and embroider textiles to sell. This includes the production of traditional items of clothing – like huipils – as well as purely decorative textiles like wall hangings or table-runners.

Some families sell directly to tourists and Ladinos through small shops in the centros, weaving coops, or in stalls along major highways or in San Cristobal. Textiles are also sold to other indigenous people, both for their own use (San Andres huipils to Zinacantan; Chamula capes to Tenejapa) and for resale.

Some Tzotzil religious practices are more closely related to those of the highland Maya of Guatemala, than they are to those of other indigenous ethnic groups in Mexico. Chiapas only became part of Mexico in 1824. In general, most Tzotzil people adhere to a faith that includes elements of traditional Catholicism coupled with native Maya beliefs. Caves, springs and mountaintops hold shrines to Maya deities where rituals are held on certain occasions. Communities celebrate major fiestas for their patron saints, for Carnaval, Semana Santa, Santa Cruz, and other Catholic holidays. Many thousands of Tzotzil people have converted to Protestant religions, and Evangelical churches have proved especially attractive. In response, some communities – most notably Chamula – have driven out Protestant converts and their families. These displaced persons have formed their own communities called “colonias” in the area around San Cristobal. More recently, thousands of indigenous people (generally former Protestants) have converted to Islam; some have even made the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Zapatista uprising against the Mexican Government began in San Cristobal on the morning of January 1, 1994. The rebels and their leaders included many Tzotzil people from different communities. Although fighting on a large scale has ended, local conflicts still go on, and Army camps and military bases are located throughout Tzotzil territory. Many municipios expelled Zapatistas from the communities, and these people formed their own “autonomous municipalities” all through the region. Some government supporters created paramilitary armies to fight the Zapatistas, and training camps existed (and may still exist) in certain Tzotzil municipios.

Karen Elwell 9/2005