Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Tzeltal are Mayan people living in the central highlands of the Mexican state of Chiapas. Agriculture is the basic economic activity, supplemented by wage labor. There is regional trade in surplus produce and craft products such as pottery, weavings, woodworking, and basketry. Each Tzeltal community constitutes a distinct social and cultural unit, and is governed by two interrelated groups of religious and political authorities. The religious system is a syncretic blend of Catholic and indigenous elements.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Middle America and the Caribbean --Maya Area



OWC Code


Number of Documents


Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages


Collection Overview

The Tzeltal collection consists of 11 documents, which except for one translation from Spanish (1: Guiteras Holmes), are all in English. The basic works are 7: Nash and 8: Hunt, but 4: Villa Rojas contains an excellent general summary of Tzeltal ethnography and culture history which provides a very useful starting point for the study of Tzeltal culture. Nash's field work covered a period of 18 months during five field trips in the years 1957-1958, and was concentrated in the MUNICIPIO of Amatenango del Valle. 7: Nash is a study of socio-cultural change in Amatenango, focusing on the economy, political leadership, religion, and relationships with the Ladino population and the Mexican government. 3: Nash provides a very interesting analysis of 37 homicide cases which occurred between 1938 and 1965 in the fictiously named town of "Teklum". 9: Nash is a structural-functional study of the change of officials in the community of Tzo?ontahal. 8: Hunt is a doctoral dissertation based on field work in 1958. Hunt focuses on an analysis and comparison of domestic group organization and process in the communities of Amatenango and Aguacatenango. 6: Metzger is also a dissertation based on field work in Aguacatenango, but concentrates on a narrower study of ceremonial drinking patterns.

The earliest document in the collection is 5: Blom & LaFarge, which presents detailed descriptions of aspects of material culture obtained during an expedition through the Chiapas highlands in 1925. 2: Redfield and Villa Rojas is a generalized account of community organization and cultural patterns derived both from the literature and a short period of field work (ca. one month) by Villa Rojas in 1938. 1: Guiteras Holmes is a short article analyzing the unilineal kin groups and kinship terminology in the town of Cancuc. Data for this study were gathered during two short field trips totaling about three months in 1945 and 1946. In 1993 two additional documents were added to the Tzeltal collection, 10: Stross and 11: HRAF. 10: Stross, based on a year's field research in the PARAJES of Mahosik and Cahal c'en (outlying communities of the MUNICIPIO of Tenejapa), investigates selected aspects of language acquisition by Tzeltal children. As background for the study the author presents an abundance of data on pregnancy, childbirth, child rearing, adolescence, and marriage. This work also provides much information on Tzeltal plant taxonomy and nomenclature. 11: HRAF consists of a bibliography on the Tzeltal.

ALISILES -- Category 794

ALFEREZ -- Category 794

AYUNTAMIENTO -- Category 621

BARRIO -- Category 621

CALPULES -- the division of a town center into two sections or sub-communities, similiar to a form of moiety organization. (Called BARRIOS by Latinos) -- Category 621

CARGO of MAJORDOMO of church -- Category 794

COMPADRAZGO -- Categories 476 and/or 608

EJIDOS -- cooperatively owned land of village -- Categories 423 and/or 621

E'ULELA (C'ULEL) -- the human spirit or soul -- Category 774

FIADOR -- Categories 426 and/or 441

FISCAL -- Category 794

HPOSIL -- the curer -- Category 756


MAYORDOMO -- Category 794

ME ILTATIL -- Categories 608 and/or 571

NOREP ritual -- the first cutting of the hair of a child -- Categories 302 and/or 852

PARAJES -- scattered settlements around a town center or MUNICIPIO -- Category 621

PRINCIPALES -- their role in Tzeltal society -- Categories 624 and/or 794

QICALDES -- Categories 624 and/or 693

REGIDORES -- Category 624

secretary -- Category 624

SINDICO -- Category 624

SUERTE -- a supernatural power associated with good or bad luck or fortune in carrying out various economic enterprises -- Category 777

Close Box