The Lacandones

The Lacandones: Mayan protectors of the Chiapas jungle

After the peninsular groups arrived in Latin America, a process of implantation of European culture in the region began and this resulted in the violent displacement of civilizations and ethnic groups that originally populated this space. Some indigenous groups assimilated into the colonial system, others were exterminated. However, there are still tribes that resist succumbing today, including the Lacandons.

The Lacandones made up a Mayan ethnic group that inhabit the jungle area of ​​the State of Chiapas, in Mexico. This ecosystem is known as the Lacandon jungle and extends to the border with Guatemala. Their language is Lacandon and it comes from the Mayan language family. Currently, they are an ethnic minority of small demographic proportions (less than 1000 individuals) but with extraordinary moral relevance.

And since Latin America began its industrialization process, the continent’s environment has suffered from the arrival of large companies and other predatory activities. In this context, the Lacandones have tried at all costs to protect their environment and teach a lesson in development by promoting ecological tourism. The Lacandones have much to teach us and, therefore, here we bring information about this inspiring culture.

Origin of the Lacandones

It is suspected that the Lacandones were tribes that inhabited the jungle of Belize or the Yucatan Peninsula, during the Castilian conquest. Later, they emigrated to the Chiapas jungle, escaping from the attempts of forced assimilation that sought to reduce them and lock them up in the so-called “towns of peace.”

The Lacandones call themselves “hachwinik“Which in his language means” true man. ” The origin of the term Lacandon could be a small island in the Lacantún River and it means “great rock” due to the geography of those places.

Socio-political organization

They are an egalitarian society that does not generate surpluses that allow a vertical accumulation of capital, therefore, nor is there a social class distinction. In general, the only hierarchical distinction has to do with the respect due to the older men of the community, who are also spiritual guides for the rest of the individuals.

The Lacandones: Mayan protectors of the Chiapas jungle

Lacandon settlements are usually made up of a large family of 15 people, who are led by the oldest male. Polygamy was previously a common use, but this has been diminished by the increasing penetration of Protestant Christianity.

The Lacandon houses are located on the banks of the waterways, to have the source of fish and the main communication route close by. They are small houses with two rooms and attached corrals for domestic animals.

Economic activities

Lacandon agriculture is subsistence and takes advantage of the different ecological niches of the Lacandon jungle to boost planting yields. They also know the extensive artisanal livestock farming and complement it with hunting and fishingto. Among the Lacandons, crafts play a fundamental role, since their works are requested by tourists who want to have an authentic memory of an ancestral town that still survives.

At present, there are Lacandon guides who invite tourists to explore the jungle and interact with nature in a respectful way. This is part of a larger program that aims to improve the quality of life of the Lacandons, protect the rainforest from deforestation, and sow ecological values ​​in tourists.


The Lacandons were never uprooted or assimilated. Therefore, they still have a religious vision deeply influenced by the environment in which they are immersed. The Lacandon jungle is a magical place for them, and their mission is to safeguard nature so that she protects them in return..

This people believe that the supreme gods ascended to heaven and that only their intermediaries remain among us, hidden in the forces of nature. Like the other Mayan peoples, the Lacandons worship the Sun and the Moon, the culminating point of the supernatural order from which a chain of hierarchies begins. As well trust that time is cyclical and non-linearThat is why they speak of eras that overlap and not of a chain of events.

For the Lacandon, the world is supported by 4 ceiba trees that are located in the cardinal points. The roots of these trees are born in the underworld and their tops reach where the higher gods live. In that sense, it is the same idea of ​​the tree of life that is present in other cultures.

However, the difference that the Lacandons present lies in their lunar affiliation. The Moon is the feminine element, protector of life, represented by the Goddess AkNa ‘who is “mother of all mothers” and safeguards creation by appeasing the anger of her husband the Sun or HachAkYum.


The Lacandon jungle is typically tropical and ecologically privileged. It was recognized by the Mexican State in 2007 as a place whose conservation is of supreme importance and that deserves priority care. It has countless endemic species and an ecological balance that remains quite free from the destructive action of human beings.

Since 1972, the Lacandona Community received, by presidential decree, the possession of more than 600,000 hectares of jungle. In this way, it was established that other groups were invaders and that the Lacandones were in charge of safeguarding the environment. Twenty years later, another presidential decree confirms that the Lacandona Forest is a biosphere reserve.

With this ethical and legal mandate, the Lacandons have faced exogenous groups that want to deforest the jungle to expand the agricultural frontier. However, they are currently asking the Mexican government to help them find alternatives that can lead them on the path of sustainable development. Ecotourism initiatives are a first step in that direction.

The agriculture of the Lacandones and other productive practices that they carry out on a daily basis have very little impact on the biosphere, since they do not use chemicals to fertilize, nor do they hunt or fish beyond an adequate limit. His desire is to subsist with the planet, do not exploit it for economic profit.

Continue reading about Los Huicholes.

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