The Daily Life of a Zinacantecan Woman

In our village of Zinacantán, aside from the labors of daily life, some women engage in other activities to earn profits, and others don’t; for example, some do brocade work on their waist looms, and others only embroider those garments. Other women tend the pastures and breed turkeys and hens, or sell the traditional handicrafts they buy from weavers. But there are some who weave, embroider, and sell the textiles themselves, which earns them better profits. Most women devote themselves to working in the home and raising their children, mainly to ensure that they have their mother’s care and never lack motherly love, clothes, or a healthy diet. They also look after their husbands, but even if they wish to engage in other kinds of work, they are unable to, because some husbands are jealous or don’t like for their women to work on anything but their homes, their children, and their husbands. Many don’t like for their wives to go out frequently, for instance, to bring firewood, water, or to sell their handicrafts.

There are women who didn’t go to school and can’t even spell their names; on the other hand, those who were privileged by their parents and were able to go to school have had a better future, because some are teachers, secretaries, nurses, or bilingual writers, but they only reached those positions through their parents’ efforts, although not just theirs, because some of the women also did their share. However, the women who did not want or were unable to go to school, stay at home doing their housework, and later regret not having been able to get ahead.

In her daily home life, a woman has to wake up early to make the tortillas, ground the pozol, and prepare her husband’s breakfast so he can go work on the fields; after preparing her husband’s lunch, she finishes up the tortillas, cooks the nixtamal, and once it gets lighter outside she goes to the hills for firewood, and when she comes back she eats her breakfast and cleans the house; if there is water nearby, she immediately sets to washing clothes, and if there isn’t, she must go find water to do so. Having finished cleaning the house, she begins to weave on her waist loom, whether it’s her family’s clothing or clothes for sale, because if they are short of money she must help out somehow, for if her husband works only on the fields, they often don’t have enough money to support their family, given that the crops (vegetables, corn, beans, or wild radish) don’t have a set price in the market; sometimes the price is good and sometimes it’s low, and other times the whole crop is lost to granite or drought, which is why some women must sell handicrafts, and others must sell tortillas; it’s even worse for widows with small children to support; they have to see how they can work to support these children, either weaving clothes for other people, or weaving garments to sell as crafts; some make tostadas or food for the men who work on the fields, paid for by some women who earn enough to pay for them.

Poor women experience much suffering in their daily lives, mostly due to scant economic resources, given that the labor of peasant women is so undervalued, the government does not set favorable wages for the work these women do, or society itself does not value the ability, the effort, or the tradition of indigenous handicrafts; for example, the fabrics we make with our own hands, a heritage passed down by our ancestors; to us, it is a valuable treasure; we believe our language and our manual labor should be valorized and should endure; mothers feel they have the pleasure and the responsibility to educate their children about their culture and traditions so they survive generation after generation, so that we never lose our knowledge, our legends, customs and traditions, because they are the greatest treasure of indigenous communities. It’s fine if we leave our village due to situations of great need, but once in the city we should never forget our language or the customs of our community.

Since women are in charge of the reproduction of our people, our culture, and our language, we believe they should always be esteemed the same way men are, for they are the roots of family and society, and so they are as valuable as men; they should never be neglected, because women are equally worthy as people. Indigenous women must be supported the way all Mexican women’s labor is. Their being indigenous is no reason to put them down, because we are all human beings and we are just as valuable, and even more, as the providers of life and reproducers of our most ancient culture and tradition.
Many thanks.

Additional Info

  • Title: The Daily Life of a Zinacantecan Woman
  • Alternate Title: n/a
  • Author: Petrona de la Cruz Cruz
  • Date: n/a
  • Language: English, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Type/Format: essay
  • Place of Publication: Zinacantán, Chiapas
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