Though Spanish remains the dominant language, various Maya languages are spoken widely in northern, central, and eastern Chiapas. Tzotzil and Tzeltal have the most speakers statewide, concentrated in the central highlands including San Cristóbal and surrounding villages. Both languages also are spoken in Palenque and the Río Usumacinta Valley, though Ch’ol is the dominant tongue there.
The Lacandón, who number about a thousand and live in the state’s central rainforest, speak a version of Yucatec Maya. Other language groups include Tojolabal, found mostly in the Lakes Region, and Zoque, a non-Maya language spoken in parts of northern and western Chiapas, as well as in Oaxaca, Tabasco, and Veracruz.
Many older Maya do not speak any (or much) Spanish, though the younger generations typically do. Only a small number of non-indigenous Chiapanecans learn the basics of one or more Maya languages; those who do are most often merchants who frequent indigenous markets and teachers working in rural areas.
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition