Zapoteco, Zaachila in Mexico

Zapoteco, Zaachila
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People Name: Zapoteco, Zaachila
Country: Mexico
10/40 Window: No
Population: 15,000
World Population: 15,000
Primary Language: Zapotec, Zaachila
Primary Religion: Christianity
Christian Adherents: 90.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.10 %
Scripture: Unspecified
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Zapoteco
Affinity Bloc: Latin-Caribbean Americans
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Zaachila is a village located in present day Oaxaca, in Mexico. Zaachila once was a Mesoamerican pre-Hispanic city-state that was inhabited when the Spaniards arrived. The town was then inhabited by indigenous Zapotec people groups who were directly influenced the Mixtecs. Zaachila served as the final capital of the Mixtec-Zapotecs. The Zaachila Zapotecs were the prominent political force for much of the Valley of Oaxaca when the Spanish arrived.
The name Zaachila is from the Zapotec language and means "large leaf of the purslane." The Zapotecs call themselves bene zaa, which means either "the native people" or "the cloud people.
Zaachila today is famous for its archaeological excavations that revealed the burial places of important Mixtec rulers and for their world renowned crafts.
The People of Zaachila speak Zaachila Zapotec, which is an indigenous language of Zapotecs.
At present, many of them live in titled communal lands. Many Zaachila Zapotecs have moved to other parts of Mexico and the United States for better employment opportunities.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Village of Zaachila is run by two parallel municipal governments due to the political unrest in the region. This leads to confrontations between the two. The town's support is divided between the two governments and each government has control of different aspects of the town. The constitutional government has control of police and other services while "The people's government" has control of business taxation.
Agriculture is the main occupation followed by crafts, chiefly pottery, weaving and making palm-fiber.
The women wear traditional clothing consisting of long skirt, long overtunic (huipil), and a shawl or wraparound headpiece, while the men wear wide, loose trousers, loose shirt, sometimes with pleats, sandals, and straw or wool hat. Many houses in this area still have wood stoves and/or a small fireplace in which they cook food over embers.
The Zaachila prefer the barter system, which is a common practice of exchanging and selling their products. Every Thursday, the merchants gather in open air at the village center to display their wares and do business. The Zaachila get their shopping done on Thursday, which is the town's market day and frequented by the Zapotec speaking people from all around the area. Their regional foods such as barbacoa, chichilo, mole verde, turkey in mole with rice, carnitas and empanadas, served with tepache, atole, mezcal and hot chocolate are found in the Thursday market.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The religion of the Zapotec is Roman Catholic, but belief in pagan spirits, rituals, and myths persists, many intermingled with Christianity. The Zaachila Zapotecs, spread in ten neighborhoods, have their very own patron saints and corresponding festivals. The entire town comes together to celebrate the most important festivals of ‘the Holy Week'.
In the Pre-Hispanic days, they worshipped deities of the underworld and nature.
On the last Monday of July, the Zaachila community meets in the archaeological site ("El Cerrito"), to celebrate Laanii Roo Xten Daan Zaadxil, in honor of the corn goddess (Pitao Ko Shuub). The goddess Pitao Ko Shuub is chosen among several young women who had previously enrolled in a contest to act as the deity of the festival. To be chosen as the goddess, the qualifications of the young women include having long black hair, brown skin and must share a theme of the history of Zaachila. The chosen one gets to host all the activities of the festival. During the festival, various iconic dances of the region are performed by the community, ending with the final dance of "Los Zancudos," where the young men dance on stilts almost five feet tall. In the festivities that follow, the authorities also get involved providing the participants Tepache (a fermented fruit beverage), tamales, atole and mescal – food made with corn. Being the most colorful and joyous celebration of the region, the event is marked by various cultural events, parades, and culinary delights of the region.

What Are Their Needs?

The municipality has problems with illegal trafficking of land, the victims of which have problems obtaining basic services. Many inhabitants of the municipality do not have sufficient water, electricity or drainage services.
The problem extends from the current rapid growth of the town, whose population is expected to grow by 240% by 2030.
A more serious problem for the municipality is the open dump that was established about thirty years ago to receive waste from the city of Oaxaca and 18 other municipalities. The dump contains about 650 tons of trash and has space for more, but it is located in a geologically vulnerable zone. Due to the increasing population since its establishment, many neighborhoods have been built near it. This has led to a number of communities having health problems due to contaminated ground water and airborne bacteria.
There is also minimal to no police presence in the ten neighborhoods of the town. Even though they have organized citizens patrols, crime rates is on the increase and nighttime is still dangerous.

Prayer Points

Pray for the physical wellbeing of the entire community of the Zaachila Zapotecs who have to endure hard living conditions. Pray that the government will soon act to provide them with the basic necessities such as clean water and electricity.
Pray that they will have a peaceful life free of violence and organized crime.
Pray that the Catholic and evangelical Christians will unify in the cause of Christ.
Pray for SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) and its language translators, as they strive to translate various portions of the Bible in Zapotec languages. Pray that the Lord provides exceptional wisdom and understanding with the work they undertake to deliver the word of God into the hands of the people.
Pray that communities across Mexico would know that God values them and their unique languages, and that he wants them to be able to understand the good news.
Ask for the Zaachila Zapoteco people to have easy access to the Scriptures.
Pray that Jesus will win their hearts.

Text Source:   Joshua Project