Posts Tagged ‘Mixtec’

As I’d discussed in a previous post, August 9 was International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.  That day, on my way to the mercado, a youth band had me stopping at the city’s cultural celebration on the Alameda de León.

This young girl, without accompaniment, brought tears to the eyes as she sang, “Canción Mixteca” by Oaxacan composer José López Alavez.  He wrote the melody in 1912 and the lyrics in 1915, expressing his homesickness for Oaxaca after moving to Mexico City.  It has since become an anthem for not only Oaxaqueños, but all Mexicano expats yearning for their homeland.

Yaa Savi (Mixtec language)




Canción Mixteca (en español)
Que lejos estoy del suelo
Donde he nacido.
Inmensa nostalgia
Invade mi pensamiento.
Y al verme tan solo y triste
Cual hoja el viento.
Quisiera llorar,Quisiera morir
De sentimiento.

Oh! tierra del sol
Suspiro por verte.
Ahora que lejos
Yo vivo sin luz.
Sin amor.
Y al verme
Tan solo y triste
Cual hoja el viento
Quisiera llorar,Quisiera morir
De sentimiento.

Canción Mixteca (English translation)
How far I am from the land where I was born!
Immense nostalgia invades my heart;
And seeing myself so lonely and sad like a leaf in the wind,
I want to cry, I want to die from this feeling.

Oh Land of Sun! I yearn to see you!
Now that I’m so far from you, I live without light and love;
And seeing myself so lonely and sad like a leaf in the wind,
I want to cry, I want to die from this feeling.

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When atop the massive plateau that is the archaelogical site of Monte Albán, one can’t help but reflect on the pre-Hispanic cultures that built and inhabited this place; cultures whose gods were of the environment — the elements and the agricultural gifts, to man and beast, those elements provided.



Today, as we celebrate Earth Day, perhaps we need a return to the old gods…

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To contemplate is to look at shadows.  — Victor Hugo


From last night’s “Fuego Nuevo” performance by the Ballet Folklórico Tradicional del Estado de Oaxaca at the Plaza de la Danza.  Using music and dance, this “espectáculo” tells the story of the beginning of a new cycle in the Mixteca culture.

(FYI:  For those in Oaxaca, it’s free and repeats tonight at 7 PM.)

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In the last month, several articles in the US press referencing Oaxaca have been called to my attention.  They aren’t the usual travel features enumerating the “10 must see sites,” “best places to stay,” and “local fare dining.”  Nor do they cater to the ever more popular fear mongering and demonization of Mexico and her citizens.  Instead, these articles provide a window on Oaxaca’s indigenous past and challenging present.

Triqui women sitting on a sidewalk

Triqui women and children in front of the Government Palace in Oaxaca de Juárez

From the June 15, 2012 New York TimesThe Past Has a Presence Here by Edward Rothstein.

OAXACA, Mexico — The past casts a sharp shadow here, wherever you look. You see it on mountaintop plateaus, where the ruins of ancient pyramidal staircases and capital-I-shaped ball fields hint at mysterious rituals that disappeared over a millennium ago.


We are not dealing here with imagined reconstructions, but with the past’s palpable presence. And most of these ancient cities and monuments were abandoned some six centuries before the Spaniards plundered the region. After 80 years of archaeological research, their meanings are still unclear, though much has been written about Zapotec social hierarchies, gladiatorial-style games and stone carvings.

What is more clear is that remnants of those worlds also exist in the valley, where the slow-changing cultures of this buffeted but protected region still reflect Zapotec and Mixtec heritages. So here everything is plentiful that in the United States is rare: indigenous ruins, ancient languages, signs of direct lineage. And there is an edge to it all. Centers like Monte Albán are monuments to power and accumulated material wealth; they are also clearly evidence of a large-scale political organization, relics of perhaps the earliest state in the Americas.  [Read full article]

From California’s June 7, 2012 Monterey County Weekly, Native speakers and local missionaries work to save an indigenous Mexican language by Sara Rubin.

Gloria Moreno walks with a slight limp under the weight of the black messenger bag slung over her shoulder. It holds something of a botanical encyclopedia, petals and leaves gathered from the streets of Greenfield, which Moreno says help alleviate any number of ailments – pain, anxiety, weak bones.

Moreno says her collection is part of a medical tradition she began practicing as a teenager in Mexico. It was there, at 15, that she says she was instructed in a dream to take up herbal medicine.

Moreno dreamt her directive in Triqui de la baja, an indigenous language of the Copala region of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.

As native Triqui speakers disperse, leaving behind a notoriously violent region, there’s pressure both to preserve that language, and to leave it behind.

Of an estimated 40,000 Triqui speakers worldwide, about half of them are thought to have migrated away from Oaxaca, and as many as 10 percent live in the Salinas Valley.


Moreno hopes for a generation of trilingual children, but many younger Triqui speakers are encouraged to trade their native tongue for English or Spanish, says a Salinas-based interpreter (who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal), because indigenous Mexicans are viewed as inferior. He trekked two hours to school from his childhood home in Oaxaca where he says he was bullied for being different.

“Because of the discrimination, parents don’t want their kids to learn [Triqui],” he says, “but then we lose tradition and culture.”

To reverse that, he hopes to get a grant or some cash to revive a bimonthly Triqui class piloted at the Greenfield Public Library two years ago. It drew about 35 students; of those, only a quarter were native speakers. The rest, mostly service providers, were there to learn Triqui.

“To speak Spanish, I used to think you had more value,” he says. “When I came here, I learned it is not that way. If you know three or four languages, you can explore and learn more.”

View Barbara Hollenbach’s Spanish-Triqui dictionary at www.sil.org/~hollenbachb/Posted.htm  [Read full article]

And finally from the May 28 Los Angeles Times, Epithet that divides Mexicans is banned by Oxnard school district, by Paloma Esquivel.

Rolando Zaragoza, 21, was 15 years old when he came to the United States, enrolled in an Oxnard school and first heard the term “Oaxaquita.” Little Oaxacan, it means — and it was not used kindly.

“Sometimes I didn’t want to go to school,” he said. “Sometimes I stayed to fight.”

“It kind of seemed that being from Oaxaca was something bad,” said Israel Vasquez, 23, who shared the same mocking, “just the way people use ‘Oaxaquita’ to refer to anyone who is short and has dark skin.”

Years later, indigenous leaders are fighting back against an epithet that lingers among immigrants from Mexico, directed at their own compatriots. Earlier this month the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project in Oxnard launched the “No me llames Oaxaquita” campaign. “Don’t call me little Oaxacan” aims to persuade local school districts to prohibit the words “Oaxaquita” and “indito” (little Indian) from being used on school property, to form committees to combat bullying and to encourage lessons about indigenous Mexican culture and history.

Indigenous Mexicans have come to the U.S. in increasing numbers in the last two decades. Some estimates now put them at 30% of California’s farmworkers. In Ventura County, there are about 20,000 indigenous Mexicans, most of whom are Mixtec from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero who work in the strawberry industry, according to local organizers.

Many speak little or no Spanish and are frequently subjected to derision and ridicule from other Mexicans. The treatment follows a legacy of discrimination toward indigenous people in Mexico, said William Perez, a professor of education at Claremont Graduate University who has interviewed and surveyed numerous indigenous Mexican students.  [Read full article]

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Yesterday’s trip to Zaachila began with the archaeological site, located right above the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Natividad.

View of Church of Nuestra Señora de la Natividad from Zaachila archaeological site

Zaachila, named for the pre-Columbian Zapotec king, Zaachila Yoo, was the last Zapotec capital, following the demise of Monte Alban.  It was eventually conquered by the Mixtecs, who were still there when the Spanish conquistadors appeared on the scene.

Entrance to Zaachila archaeological site

First excavated by archaeologist Roberto Gallegos in 1962, only a small fraction of the site has been uncovered.  However, visitors have access to two small tombs in mound A.

Facade of Tomb 2

Tomb 2 is the much less decorative of the two, though it apparently once held jewelry and other valuable offerings, many, of which can be found in the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia in Mexico City.

Interior of Tomb 2

According to the brochure available for purchase (10 pesos), Tomb 1 was constructed in the epoch III-A (250-650 CE) and reused in the Post-classic era (950-1521 CE).

Facade of Tomb 1

Seven figures adorn the walls of Tomb 1.

Figure of Yahui on far wall of Tomb 1

Figure of Búho (owl) on left wall of Tomb 1

Figure of Bújo (owl) on right wall of Tomb 1.

Figure on right wall of Tomb 1

Figure of Bezelao (a supreme god) on left wall of Tomb 1

Figures of 5 Flower and 9 Flower are also depicted but I couldn’t lean far enough over the barrier to photograph them.

The site recently reopened after being closed for several months.  Work continues…

Piles of stones under trees

The site is open Monday through Sunday from 8 AM to 6 PM.  A small museum collects the 31 peso admission fee, displays photos of many of artifacts removed from the site and on display in Mexico City, reproduction of parts of the Codex Zouche-Nuttall (housed in the British Museum), and photographs from other archaeological sites in Oaxaca.

For more information on the Mixtec Group Codices, take a look at the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies website.

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