En Via Staff, Indigenous Culture, Responsible Tourism

Zapotec within Fundación En Vía

By Andrea Barriga. Andrea spent 7 months as En Vía’s Communications and Responsible Tourism Intern. During this time, she also worked with the Microfinance Program and the Education Program, getting insight into the whole organization. 

In honor of the International Year of Indigenous Languages as declared by the United Nations, we are dedicating a social media campaign to Zapotec. We will explore the different ways we as an organization interact with the indigenous language and showcase the relationship that our entrepreneurs have with their native tongue. The Zapotec language is spoken by around 450,000 people in the southwestern-central highlands of Mexico, mainly in the state of Oaxaca. Zapotec has a rich and complex history and there are different dialects depending on the region, which then brings different experiences on what Zapotec means to each community and person. Therefore, this campaign will just be a glimpse into people’s experiences and relationships with the language.

Entrepreneurs from San Marcos Tlapazola enjoying their interactive business classes

At En Vía we work with several communities where Zapotec is their first language and we work together with the women in our program so everyone can participate in our Education Program. Many of our entrepreneurs speak Zapotec as their first language and feel less comfortable speaking Spanish so we make sure to incorporate Zapotec into our courses. As our Education Coordinator, Lily, has mentioned, “It is important that we create a safe place where they can feel comfortable using Zapotec so we encourage it but we also make sure to use different ways for them to get the information we are teaching.”

Within the Education Program, we use techniques like buddy pairing where someone who does not know Spanish is paired with someone who does so her partner can translate the information being given. In addition, we have members of staff like our Education Assistant, who speak fluent Zapotec, in order to make all the course content accessible to everyone. Our Education Assistant, Isabel, is actually the daughter of one of the entrepreneurs in our program!

Isabel (center) talking about teaching classes in Zapotec

Although Zapotec has several different dialects, Isabel is able to use her Zapotec to teach in all of our communities. We work closely with the women in order to help them get the best experience out of the program. For many of the entrepreneurs in our program this might be the first time that people are willing to work with them and champion using Zapotec. In many communities, the use of Zapotec has been decreasing due to the stigma of speaking Zapotec in the city, so for many it is a breath of fresh air. Meanwhile, other communities like Teotitlán del Valle are starting to bring pride back to learning Zapotec by teaching Zapotec in primary and high school.

Apart from our Education Program incorporating Zapotec, our Micro-finance Program does as well! Our Microfinance Coordinator, Rocío, is originally from San Miguel del Valle (one of the communities we serve). She is able to use her Zapotec to promote En Vía to people who might not understand Spanish and introduce them into the program. This way we open the opportunities to more people who might otherwise not participate in programs like En Vía.

En Via - Business Course - shot by Albi
Entrepreneurs from Teotitlán del Valle in a monthly business class

Every aspect of our organization is interconnected with Zapotec and that also includes our Responsible Tourism Program. As part of our Responsible Tourism Program, our entrepreneurs are able to take some time from their daily routine to present their business and interact with participants from all over the world. With the help of our translation guides we are able to facilitate a conversation between our entrepreneurs and our participants from Spanish to English. However, some of our entrepreneurs might only know Zapotec which sparks a fascinating chain of translation! Our entrepreneurs will have a family member translate Zapotec to Spanish and then our guides will translate it to English. It’s a great way to hear the Zapotec language but also to create an environment where we respect their language and are open to learn more about their culture.

Each community and person has a different experience using Zapotec and at Fundación En Vía we try our best to make their experience as positive as possible. We understand the importance of conserving Zapotec by creating a positive experience within our Education, Responsible Tourism and Micro-lending Programs.

To learn more about En Vía or to donate to our programs, visit www.envia.org!

3 thoughts on “Zapotec within Fundación En Vía”

  1. I thank you for this latest informative post. I continue to be thrilled to be part of this ongoing triumph of education and empowerment for women and their families.It is now some 5 years ago that I visited with my daughter Jessica Gordon from Australia, who had been a volunteer teacher with En Via. I am proud to still be able to donate a very modest amount monthly for your ongoing work and to receive the stories of progress. Very exciting to be embracing Zapotec language as you are.

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