Crisis in the Highlands                    

The 2003 INEG census in Chiapas counted 959,000 indigenous inhabitants. This 27% of the state's population is of predominately Mayan descent divided into nine major ethnicities.  The Tzetzals, Tzotzils, Choles, Zoques, Tojolabales (chuj), Mames, Mochos, Cakchiqueles, and Lancandones share ancient roots to the great Mayan kingdom of Palenque but have since developed distinct languages, cultures, and rituals.  For the most part, these modern Maya continue to live in municipalities in Chiapas established by the Spanish as a means of controlling the rebellious native population. 

    The Mexican courts claim official rule over its municipalities although inhabitants historically ignore national government in favor of local tribal law.  In the recent decade Chiapaneca indigenous communities have publicly rejected Mexican governmental services and proclaimed their status as Autonomous Communities.  Zapatista sympathies are enforced by these communities with a violence that parallels the unofficial Mexican policy of rebel irradication

The astounding evidence of villager displacement by religious and political conflict is evident in the growth of Zones around San Christobal de las Casas.  Beginning with the violence of 1994, the indigenous of Highland Chiapas descended upon privately owned farmland on the outskirts of San Christobal to establish illegal cities.  The swiftness with which the land was occupied was unstoppable by the landowners or the Mexican government. The incredible rate of growth amongst these shanty towns has earned its inhabitants the nickname los hornos (the ants) amongst San Christobal mestizos.  The population within the Zones potentially exceeds the legal population of San Christobal.  The Mexican government, however, refuses to recognize the existence of these people within annual census reports and streets within the Zones are excluded from official maps.  Likewise, there are no public services offered in these zones the inhabitants survive without running water and proper sanitation. Since Mexico chooses to ignore the illegal settlements of San Christobal, drug lords have claimed jurisdiction over the population.