About the Tz’utujil People and Santiago Atitlan
The Popul Vuh describes the mythic journey and arrival of seven tribes of warriors to a place called Tulan.
In this account, the Tz’utujil are the first of the seven tribes to arrive. Existing evidence indicates that Tz’utujil-speakers once occupied the territory surrounding Lake Atitlán as well as the southern expanse of territory to the coastal lowlands.
The word “Tz’utujil” means “Corn Flower.” Today Tz’utujil is spoken in the towns of San Pablo, San Juan, San Pedro, Chicacao, and Santiago Atitlan. “Atitlan,” a word of Nahuatl origin, means “close to the water.”
Santiago Atitlan is the largest of the 12 lakeside communities and is the principal population center of the Tz’utujil people. Its population is over 32,000, with about 95% indigenous. The town is located on the embankment of broken lava at the foot of Volcano Toliman, across the bay from the pre-Conquest Tz’utujil capital, Chuitinamit.
The survival of the Tz’utujil Maya and the existence of present day Santiago Atitlan, one of the largest intact communities in the Americas, give powerful testimony to the spirit of Tz’utujil resistance.