“…it seemed a part of her life, to step from the ancient to the modern, back and forth. She felt rather sorry for those who knew only one and not the other. It was better, she thought, to be able to select from the whole menu of human achievements than to be bound within one narrow range.” ― Orson Scott Card, Children of the Mind
My first experiences with ruins in Mexico were memorable, although if I am honest, they left me feeling underwhelmed. It’s not because I didn’t find them interesting or beautiful, but they seemed to bring me to a time so distant that I found it a challenge to connect. I even used to joke that I was ‘ruined for ruins’. However, I could not have been more wrong. Traces of the existence of their inhabitants co-exist in our modern world, if you just know where to look.
Judit, a women from Xanica who works with me, only learned to speak Spanish when she was eight years old. While I know there are communities that still use indigenous languages, I was surprised that a woman roughly the same age as myself, counted an indigenous language as her mother tongue. This past summer Judit and I worked in Frida’s Fish Taco truck together and in-between serving up tacos, she would teach me a few Zapotec words and I would, in turn, teach her a few English words. I learned how difficult it is to pronounce Zapotec words; you need to move your mouth in a completely different way and make sounds that don’t seem to exist in English or Spanish. Sounds are drawn out with precise enunciation and melody. Despite considering myself to have a knack for languages, when Judit’s mother stopped by for a visit and I greeted her in Zapotec, she didn’t understand me. I haven’t given up though and my thirst to learn more about this magical culture has only grown.
In this issue our writers explore Zapotec culture; the poetry, the depth and richness of the language and their arts. Leigh Morrow explores Zapotec poetry and tells the story of Felipe Lopez who has been teaching a course in Zapotec at the University of California, San Diego. Jan Chaiken and Marcia Chaiken visit the Eco Archeological Park of Copalita and follow up on the sepulcher that was found there in 2012. I highly recommend a visit to the park on your next trip to Huatulco. Deborah Van Hoewyk gives us an in-depth look at Zapotec culture then and now, further illustrating that Zapotec culture is so much more that ancient ruins, it is a vibrant part of our world today.
Don’t miss Kary Vannice’s piece about four men on the bike journey of a lifetime. If you are lucky enough to be in Mexico during Semana Santa, Carole Reedy provides a comprehensive guide to navigate you through the celebrations.