Poverty, alcohol abuse and idol worship pervade this indigenous people who value community solidarity and proverbial wisdom. Churches have joined together to request translation of poetic Old Testament books that are structurally similar to the Zapoteco language.
The Zapoteco of the Isthmus region comprise one of the largest people groups in Mexico. They are known for producing gold jewelry and colorful textiles. Embroidered blouses, skirts, tablecloths and napkins fill market squares, along with fishing nets and hammocks of yarn or string. They also excel at making tanned leather belts, sandals and small armchairs, and crafting griddles, pots and other kitchen items from clay.
Men typically are craftsmen, farmers or fishermen, while women make fresh corn tortillas and other local foods. They sell extra foods and wares at the market, managing the money.
The ancient Zapotecos’ traditional religion focused on multiple gods connected with nature. These beliefs underlie the activities and ceremonies of Zapoteco life: planting, harvesting, birth, festivals, marriage and death. Later, pre-Hispanic beliefs mixed with the religion of the conquerors, leading to a syncretism that continues in the present day.
The Zapoteco have a New Testament in their language. Published in 1972, the existing Scripture needs to be revised to a more natural sounding version. Although mature Christian churches exist in many denominations, the spiritual needs of the people are significant.
In the past, journalists and documentarians depicted Zapoteco society as matriarchal — a result of the devastation by alcohol in the lives of Zapoteco men. Many drank to excess daily and fought frequently. Their wives, meanwhile, not only raised the children but also took charge of earning and managing income.
Church leaders are excited about improvement they’ve seen in the lives of Zapoteco believers. As Christianity increases, the men are changing. Those who come to faith no longer drink. Consequently, their families enjoy more balance between husband and wife. Christian men provide strong role models for their sons, other family members and friends.
The community, represented by Zapoteco leaders, eagerly anticipates the translation of the Old Testament. Jonah, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon are first priority, followed by Genesis, 1 Samuel, Joshua and Ruth. Job is planned for the next phase. The richness of these Bible books will inform the daily life of the Zapotecos.
Plans include not only printing of new Scripture, but also audio recording. Supportive church leaders look forward to printed drafts, story booklets, animated publications and training in the use of scriptural materials.
Check out https://theseedcompany.org/zapotec to get in depth view of the Zapotec people and their culture.