This group consists of 41,609 people, according to the 2000 census. They live mainly in the northerly sector of Chiapas state, principally in the municipios and towns of Amatán, Copainalá, Chapultenango, Francisco León, Ixhuatán, Ixtacomitán, Jitotol, Ocotepec, Ostuacán, Pantepec, Rayón, Totolapa, Tapilula, Tecpatán, Acala, Blanca rosa, and Ocozocoautla. They also live in the northern part of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in the state of Oaxaca, including the Selva Zoque. Their language is also called Zoque, and has several branches and dialects. The Zoque are related to the Mixe.
In the pre-Hispanic period, the Zoque lived throughout Chiapas, and Isthmus of Tehuantepec and parts of the state of Tabasco. They are predecessors of the Olmec. They had a good social and commercial relationship with the later Mexica, which contributed to the economic prosperity of their culture in Chiapas. In 1494 they were invaded and defeated by the Aztecs, during the reign of Ahuizotl, and forced to pay tribute.
The Spanish conquest of the Zoque lands commenced in 1523, under the leadership of Luis Marin. The Zoque were parceled out amongst the settlers, where they endured forced labor and were obliged to pay high tribute. Diseases, exploitation and the miserable conditions under which they lived contributed to a significant decrease in their numbers.
The situation of the Zoque did not improve with Mexican independence, since they continued to be exploited by the mestizos and criollos. It was not until 1922, when they were assigned ejidos (common lands), that their living conditions improved somewhat.
In 1494, the Zoque were invaded and defeated by the Aztecs, during the reign of Ahuizotl, and forced to pay tribute. The Spanish conquest of the Zoque lands commenced in 1523, under the leadership of Luis Marin. The Zoque were parceled out amongst the settlers, where they endured forced labor and were obliged to pay high tribute. Diseases, exploitation and the miserable conditions under which they lived contributed to a significant decrease in their numbers.
On 17 May 2010 archaeologists in southern Mexico announced they have found a dignitary’s tomb inside a pyramid that may be the oldest type of burial discovered in Mesoamerica. The grave dates from about 2,700 years ago. 
This tomb was built by the Zoque Indians in Chiapa de Corzo, in southern Chiapas. It may be about 1,000 years older than the better-known pyramid tomb of the Mayan ruler Pakal at the Palenque archaeological site, also in Chiapas. Pre-Hispanic cultures built pyramids mainly as representations of the levels leading from the underworld to the sky.
Archaeologists started to dig into the pyramid mound in April in order to study the internal structure when they discovered a wall whose finished stones appeared to face inward. They later uncovered the 13 ft. by 9 ft. tomb chamber about 19 ft. or 22 ft. beneath what had been the pyramid's peak.
The burial site held a man believed to be aged at about 50 who was buried with jade and amber collars & bracelets, pyrite and obsidian artifacts, along with pearl ornaments and ceramic vessels. His face was covered with a funeral mask with obsidian eyes. The ornaments and some of the 15 ceramic vessels found in the tomb show influences from the Olmec culture, which is considered the "mother culture" of the region. . A woman’s nearby tomb, also about 50, and contained similar ornaments.
The man was buried in a stone chamber. He is believed to be a high priest or ruler of Chiapa de Corzo, a prominent settlement at the time. Markings in the wall indicate that wooden supports were used to create the tomb, but collapsed under the weight of the pyramid built above. The body of a 1-year-old child was laid carefully over the man's body inside the tomb. A 20-year-old male was tossed into the chamber with less care, probably sacrificed at the time of the burial.
Archaeologist Emiliano Gallaga told the Associated Press (AP) that based on the layering in which it was found and the tomb's unique wooden construction, "we think this is one of the earliest discoveries of the use of a pyramid as a tomb, not only as a religious site or temple."
This finding has raised the possibility that Olmec pyramids might contain similar tombs of dignitaries, especially at well-known sites such as La Venta. Olmec pyramids have not been excavated, mostly due to the high water table and humidity of their Gulf coast sites not being as conducive to preserving buried human remains. Experts said that despite the Chiapa de Corzo tomb's location, it is not clear the later Maya culture learned or inherited the practice of pyramid burials from the Zoques or Olmecs.
"While I have no doubt it relates to Olmec, there is no tie to Maya at this time per se," archaeologist Lisa Lucero of the University of Illinois, who was not involved in the Chiapa de Corzo project, told AP.
White-rimmed black pottery is characteristic of the Zoque people.
The Zoque traditional dress is worn almost exclusively by women, and on special occasions. Some elderly men in remote communities wear white cotton shirts. The women traditionally wear short-sleeved white blouses, with colourfully embroidered open necklines, and long poplin skirts in various colors. More recently they wear kneelength dresses in various bright colours with white lacy trims. Up to the recent past it was customary for married women to undress the upper half of the body while working in the heat. Younger generations of women have become more timid about exposing their breasts.
Their houses are mainly rectangular, with one or two rooms. Traditionally the walls were made of adobe, or mud bricks, whitewashed inside and out, and the houses had earthen floors and roofs consisting of four sloping sides of tile or thatch. More recently they are constructed with concrete blocks, cemented floors, and corrugated iron roofs. The kitchen is usually a separate structure from the main house.
As with other groups, agriculture is their prime economic activity. The crops vary according to the topography of the terrain. For the most part they raise maize, beans, chiles, and squash. Their commercial crops are coffee, cocoa, peppers, bananas, mamey, sweetsop, and guava. The soil is of poor quality, and therefore the output is low. They raise pigs and domesticated fowl in small quantities to augment their diet.
The Zoque also work in the construction industry in the cities.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article Zoque Indians.|
- According to the Mexican Commission for Indigenous Development, the Zoque number 86,569 .
- Collier, George; Quaratiello, Elizabeth (2005). Basta!: Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas. Oakland, CA: Food First Books. p. 19.
- Zeitlin, Judith (2005). Cultural Politics in Colonial Tehuantepec: Community and State Among the Isthmus Zapotec, 1500–1750. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 191.
- "Tomb Discovered Inside Southern Mexico Pyramid". 2010-05-18. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
- Malmström, Vincent (1985). "The Origins of Civilization in Meso-America: A Geographic Perspective". Yearbook. Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers 11: 25.