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from the October 2005 issue

The Zapotec Language

Note: This poem was originally written in Zapoteco.

They say that the ancient Zapotecs came down
from the clouds. The center of the sky was their home.
Very old men, very old women and a great number of children
came with them.

Upon arriving in this world, they found it a bit
empty. They saw nothing but brush,
flowers with thorns, small wild animals
and some birds; although there was an abundance
of fruit trees.

These people did not know how to speak, they only
managed to utter simple cries. They did not understand
each other.

The Zapotecs began to work at what they knew how to
do: gather and work the red clay;
they sculpted large and small animals.
These animals came to life.
When the earth began to make beautiful
sense, the Zapotecs looked and were entranced by the
animals as they multiplied.

One morning, when the petals of the sun were opening,
the Zapotecs went near a great, clean river; they started
to build their houses of adobe and palm on the banks.
They were very happy on the day they finished their work
because now they could sleep peacefully during the night;
so they decided to cut down various fruits; and they spent
the afternoon and evening eating them.

The people who came down from the clouds never forgot
the day they tasted the fruits, which were so delicious.
They enjoyed many watermelons, cactus fruits, bananas, plums,
mameys, sapodillas, guayabas. The fruits had hidden seeds inside,
from which were born the words the Zapotecs spoke.

Now, those who know the language that the Zapotecs who came
down from the clouds learned, understand their sweetness and
their sublime music.


Read more from the October 2005 issue
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