Finally, a few miles farther west lies the Chontal (sometimes known as “Tequistlatec”) territory. The Chontals are most visible on the coast, at Santiago Astata and San Pedro Huamelula. Today, about 25,000 speakers of Chontal, a language of the Hokan language family (widespread, from the north Gulf Coast to Central America), live in their approximately 1,000-square-mile (2,560-sq.-km) domain.
The Chontals are among the least modernized of Oaxaca indigenous groups. They have always tenaciously resisted invasion (though many in the zone due west of Tequisistlán have adopted the Zapotec language). Although many live near the coast, they do little fishing. They live mostly by corn-based subsistence farming, emigrating to the Isthmus or elsewhere for cash employment.
Relatively unaffected by Catholicism, their traditions remain strong. A popular fable is of their folk-hero King Fane Kansini, whom, legend says, an elderly couple hatched as an infant from an egg that they had found. The old couple soon discovered that the infant had supernatural powers. As he matured, Fane Kansini acquired the burning desire to save his people from the Zapotecs. He invented body armor and a wondrous new kind of arrow, which he used to defeat the Zapotec king in battle and thus save the Chontal people from annihilation. The Chontal-Zapotec mutual enmity continues to the present time.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition