Today, 75–80 percent of the Mexican population is estimated to be mestizo (a combination of the indigenous and Spanish-Caucasian races). Only 10–15 percent are considered to be indigenous peoples. (In comparison, as recently as 1870 the indigenous made up more than 50 percent of the population.) While there are important native communities throughout Mexico, the majority of the country’s indigenous peoples live in Chiapas, Oaxaca, and the Yucatán.
Chiapas’s indigenous population accounts for about 15 percent of the state population, though numerous municipalities are virtually 100 percent indigenous (albeit sparsely populated); the indigenous population is comprised of 12 different ethnic groups: Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Ch’ol, Zoque, Tojolabal, Kanjobal, Chuj, Mam, Jacalteco, Mochó, Cakchiquel, and Lacandón.
Of these, the Tzotzil and Tzeltal make up the vast majority of the state’s total indigenous population—36 percent and 35 percent respectively. Sadly, most of Chiapas’s indigenous population lives on or below the poverty line and suffers from high illiteracy rates—in some communities it’s nearly 50 percent—as well as elevated infant mortality rates.
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition