The State of Zapotec Poetry: Can Poetry Save an Endangered Culture?
Contemporary poets often give readings nationally and abroad and have attracted followers to the cause of Zapotec culture with their mesmerizing verses. Natalia Toledo (b. 1967), a poet who also designs clothing and jewelry, has traveled the world to read poetry in her native tongue. She commented that when she reads her verses in Vietnam, Italy, or the United States people are enchanted, even if they don’t understand the words. It is the sound itself that entrances. Antonio López Pérez (b. 1961), an accomplished poet from the same generation who took his degree in agronomy and animal husbandry, captures the delight of speaking his language in his poem “Zapoteco”: “Zapotec / I saw you / flying / like a carpet / upon the pleasure / of my tongue.” (…)
Of course, the future is uncertain. Indigenous peoples are threatened by the loss of linguistic and cultural treasures and also by the reality of environmental degradation. Still, in spite of the tremendous odds against them, Zapotec poets continue to produce verses prolifically and thus serve as an example and a hope for other indigenous languages and cultures worldwide.