The Lacandones live in the southeast of Chiapas, Mexico in which is known as La Selva Lacandona. The 700 Lacandones primarily live in three settlements, which are: Nahá and Metzabók (Mensäbäk) in the north and Lacanhá Chansayab in the south. The tropical climate is hot and moisture with and average temperature of 22° Celsius and an average rainfall of 250 cm a year. The most common trees in the rainforest are the breadfruittree, the ceiba, mahogany and the sapodilla. The area contains about 4,000 plants and 25% of al the animal species native to Mexico. In the last half of the twentieth century these numbers have decreased with 40 to 70 percent.
village of Nahá lies at the lake with the same name at an
altitude of 820 meters, approximately 50 kilometres west of the
Usumacinta river and 55 kilometres east of the regional capital
Ocosingo. The village has about 200 inhabitants. Until now, the
missionaries did not succeed to convert the inhabitants of
Nahá to Christianity, therefore Nahá is the
most traditional community of the Lacandones. The original
religion, the ceremonies, brewing of the balché and
polygamy is commonly practised by many.
recent years many thing has changed. In 1993 the first electricity
cables arrived, which resulted in the fact that some households
own lamps and a television.
acknowledge the existence of Christ (by them He is called Hesuklistos),
but look at him as a minor god and son of Äkyantho’, the
god of foreigners and their things.
of the logging companies around the Lacandon forest it has become
an impossible task for the Lacandones to hunt or to cultivate
their milpa (cornfield). But the cultural heritage seems to be
able to resist these problems.
village of Mensäbäk lies at the lake with the same name
at the foot of the Siërra Piedron at an altitude of 550 meters.
On approximately four kilometres you can find the main road to El
Tumbo. This is the smallest settlement of the Lacandones. The
rivers and lakes in the direct surroundings of the village provide
in an excellent supply of food.
lake that is named after the god Mensäbäk is the largest
of the three to each other connected lakes. The other two lakes
also bear names of Lacandon gods: Ts’ibatnah (Painter of
Houses), the lord of painting, and Ah K’ak’ (Fire
Lord), the god of hunting, courage and in the past also of warfare.
used to be a large settlement, but when the missionaries settled
in the village, many inhabitants moved to Nahá. Today Mensäbäk
is only home of a small Lacandon community.
Chansayab lies at the Lacanhá river at an altitude
of 250 meter. The village is located 50 kilometres west of the
Usamacinta river and 115 kilometres southeast of Ocosingo. The Siërra
Cojolita lies in the east. This is the largest community of
Lacandones and has about 500 inhabitants.
village is located at the border of the Monte Azules reserve, near
the ruins of Bonampak. It is the most southern community of the
Lacandones. In the direct surroundings you can still find the
untouched rainforest with more than enough game.
the Lacandones of Lacanhá live on a traditional way, they
almost don’t practice their traditional religion any more. A
yellow fever epidemic in the beginning of the 1940’s was
responsible for the death of many elders in the community, and
with that the death of many traditions.
the death of Ceron, the last tah (kind of leader of
the southern Lacandones) of Lacanhá, religion was no
longer practiced. Traditions were not more than some vague
memories. According to the traditions Jose Pepe Chan Bol
should have became the new tah, but for unknown reasons he
did not wanted this task. The missionaries noticed this and so
they began their missionary work. The Lacandones of Lacanhá
figured that is was better to have a new religion that to have
none at all. Within short time Jose Pepe Chan Bol accepted
the new religion and acted as the preacher and leader of Lacanhá.
His new function within the community was not different then the
function he should have had according the traditions.
of the first acts of the missionaries was to forbid the Lacandones
to eat a great part of the traditional diet of game and fish. The
also did not allowed the Lacandones to smoke there tobacco and to
drink their traditionally made balché, which is an
alcoholic beverage. A man was only allowed to keep his first wife;
he had to abandon his other wives, even if they were happily
married for years.
reaction on the prohibition of alcoholic beverages: “How can the
missionaries say that humans can not drink alcohol when the gods
had it first and teached the humans how to make it? They say
alcohol makes a man loud and mean, but this is not true. Alcohol
only shows the true nature of a man. The gods despise loud and
mean, when someone drinks or not.”
Today the Lacandones of Lacanhá call themselves Protestants. They visit a small chapel and sing choir songs that are translated in their own language. Another great influence on the small community was the in 2000 completed carretera fronteriza, a paved road that pass Lacanhá on 10 kilometres. This road has to make sure that Bonampak will become a mayor tourist attraction. The future will have to point out what the consequences for the Lacandones will be.