My village, Teotitlan del Valle is a rural Zapotec village, east of the Central Valley of Oaxaca, and about 30 km from the city of Oaxaca. It sits in the foothills of the Sierra Norte Mountains.
“Teotitlan del Valle” is the name given to my pueblo by the Aztecs. Before the Aztecs arrived we called our village “Xguia” which has several possible translations. One translation is “at the foot of the hill (or stone)” and another is “enchanted or magic village”. For the Aztecs, Teotitlan meant “place of God”, and my village has been known to the public by this name since the arrival of the Aztecs, although we still call it Xguia.
It is believed that my ancestors have been living in this area for over 3,000 years, and they had, by 1600 BC, built the site now called San Jose de Mogote. My ancestors later built the great site of Monte Alban, after leveling the top of a mountain to do so.
Today most people living in my village still speak the Zapotec language and also Spanish. The Zapotec language is one of about 60 recognized Zapotec languages in Mexico. Along with the Chatino language it forms the Zapotecan subgroup of the Oto-Manguean family. Zapotec is still studied, although it currently has no written language. It’s believed that in the past it was written, and some scholars think it was the first written language in the Americas.
We started a museum in the center of town in 1992 and opened it in 1995. I was happy to be on the committee that rebuilt this area and to help with the artifacts and displays. The museum has four areas. One is for Zapotec artifacts from archeology sites within my town. The second area shows the history of textiles, for example showing the backstrap loom and wild cotton. The third area displays the traditions of my village, such as the way we do traditional weddings. This area includes a photo of my parents in about 1960 because they were then the mayordomos (caretakers) of the altar of the church. The fourth area is dedicated to the Danza de la Pluma (“Feather Dance”), a dance well-known in Oaxaca and still practiced today in my village in festivals mostly in July and December.