The Mayan language family comprises five sub-families of languages that are spoken in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. In Mexico, Mayan languages are spoken in seven states: Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Campeche, San Luis Potosí and Veracruz.
In the state of Chiapas, all indigenous languages are Mayan with the exception of Zoque. In Guatemala, Mayan languages are also predominant.
The Mayan family is not obviously related to other languages in Mexico.
The five subfamilies of the Mayan language family are:
There are numerous ruins of the ancient Mayan civilization in the states of Chiapas and Yucatan, as well as in Guatemala.
These archeological sites and the artifacts discovered in them display a highly developed aesthetic sense—in stone sculpture, ceramic work, the casting of precious metals, mosaics, and the carving of crystal and jade—all of these produced without metal tools.
The sites also display advanced scientific concepts. The Mayas had invented the abstract symbol of zero to simplify mathematics long before it was in use in Europe, and the Mayan calendar was older and more efficient than the Julian calendar that was in use by the Spaniards who conquered Mexico.
In the 1950s, traditional clothing was extensively worn by Mayan people, with patterns and designs indicative of their geographic area of origin. This distinction is being lost as both men and women are abandoning the traditional by purchasing their clothing.
In high altitude areas, many women still prefer the traditional dress with its long skirts and shawls woven with wool from their own sheep.
Mayans cultivate corn (maize), beans, and squash, which form a typical diet. In addition, some cultivate small gardens near their homes, planting cabbage or other greens, long radishes, and other vegetables.
Many Mayans are forced to seek land in other areas since they have insufficient land to grow all the corn necessary for their families, as well as lacking wooded areas to provide them with firewood.
For example, the Tseltal people, have expanded greatly from their original territory during the second half of the twentieth century, migrating into the jungles in eastern Chiapas.
Ch’ol (or Chol) is a member of the western branch of the Mayan language family used by the Ch’ol people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. There are two main dialects:
- Ch’ol of Tila spoken by 43,870 people of whom 10,000 are monolinguals in the villages of Tila, Vicente Guerrero, Chivalito and Limar in Chiapas.
- Ch’ol of Tumbalá spoken by 90,000 people of whom 30,000 are monolinguals in the villages of Tumbalá, Sabanilla, Misijá, Limar, Chivalita and Vicente Guerrero.
Chontal Maya, also known as Yoko ochoco and Acalan, is a Maya language of the Cholan family spoken by the Chontal Maya people of the Mexican state of Tabasco. Chontal Maya is spoken in Nacajuca, Centla, El Centro, Jonuta, and Macuspana. There are at least three dialects, identified as Tamulté de las Sábanas Chontal, Buena Vista Chontal, and Miramar Chontal.
The Wastek (Huastec) language is a Mayan language of Mexico, spoken by the Huastecs living in rural areas of San Luis Potosí and northern Veracruz. Though relatively isolated from them, it is related to the Mayan languages spoken further south and east in Mexico and Central America. According to the 2005 population census, there were about 150,000 speakers of Wastek in Mexico (some 90,000 in San Luis Potosí and some 50,000 in Veracruz). The language is called Teenek (with varying spellings) by its speakers, and this name has gained currency in Mexican national and international usage in recent years.”>Mayan language of Mexico, spoken by the Huastecs living in rural areas of San Luis Potosí and northern Veracruz. Though relatively isolated from them, it is related to the Mayan languages spoken further south and east in Mexico and Central America.