SHEEP- Womens’ Work

For the Tzotzil people of northern Mexico, tending sheep is womens’ work- but it’s also an act of religious faith. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Raul Perezgrovas is a Researcher at the University of Chiapas in San Cristobal, Mexico. He tells us that in the sixteenth century, Spanish missionaries brought sheep to the Mexico and gradually, the responsibility of caring for these sheep passed into the hands of Tzotzil women.

“In my area it’s one hundred percent a women’s responsibility. They take care of everything: the daily chores of grazing, giving them water and salt every week. They move the shelters every two weeks; they take care of shearing twice a year. And they take care of the weaving of the wool and they process it by hand.”

In part, perhaps, because of their symbolic significance in the Bible, sheep enjoy a special status amongst other animals in Tzotzil culture.

“Sheep are sacred because they are given names; they are respected by the women. They never kill them; they never eat them of course; it’s prohibited by religion. And I have to say that sheep is the only domestic animal in this situation, because Tzotzil Indians in Chiapas eat any other animal in the household. They eat that, but sheep are never eaten. Sheep are protected by means of some crystals tied on the neck. Protected so that they cannot be damaged by diseases. So it’s very spiritual, the way women attend their animals.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’m Jim Metzner.

SHEEP- Womens' Work

For the Tzotzil women of Chiapas, Mexico, sheep are sacred animals.
Air Date:06/23/1999
Scientist:
Transcript:

For the Tzotzil people of northern Mexico, tending sheep is womens' work- but it's also an act of religious faith. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Raul Perezgrovas is a Researcher at the University of Chiapas in San Cristobal, Mexico. He tells us that in the sixteenth century, Spanish missionaries brought sheep to the Mexico and gradually, the responsibility of caring for these sheep passed into the hands of Tzotzil women.

"In my area it's one hundred percent a women's responsibility. They take care of everything: the daily chores of grazing, giving them water and salt every week. They move the shelters every two weeks; they take care of shearing twice a year. And they take care of the weaving of the wool and they process it by hand."

In part, perhaps, because of their symbolic significance in the Bible, sheep enjoy a special status amongst other animals in Tzotzil culture.

"Sheep are sacred because they are given names; they are respected by the women. They never kill them; they never eat them of course; it's prohibited by religion. And I have to say that sheep is the only domestic animal in this situation, because Tzotzil Indians in Chiapas eat any other animal in the household. They eat that, but sheep are never eaten. Sheep are protected by means of some crystals tied on the neck. Protected so that they cannot be damaged by diseases. So it's very spiritual, the way women attend their animals."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I'm Jim Metzner.