Our project began in 2016 as a graduate field methods class in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Ten PhD and MA students worked with Maestra Fe Silva Robles to learn about her variety of Zapotec from the town of Santiago Laxopa in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico. In addition to exploring several components of the language's grammar, they started building the online dictionary.

Since then, many of these original students have continued to study the language, joined by other students and faculty. They are continuing to learn from native speakers of Zapotec from Santiago Laxopa, as well as from the nearby towns of San Sebastian Guiloxi and Santa María Yalina, living in California. In addition, a team of students and faculty has visited Santiago Laxopa each summer since 2016.

Class Picture

2016 graduate field methods class participants: Lauren McGarry, Maho Morimoto, Fe Silva Robles, Chelsea Miller, Kelsey Sasaki (front row); Jake Vincent, Jeff Adler, Tom Roberts, Steven Foley, Maziar Toosarvandani, Nate Clair, Jed Pizarro Guevara (back row)

These intellectual activites are joined with efforts to engage more broadly with the Oaxacan diasporic community in California. Our personal relationships have developed into a long-term collaboration between the lingusitics department and Senderos, a local non-profit organization. This Nido de Lenguas initiative aims to share knowledge about the indigenous languages of Oaxaca with the general public, through Pop-Up events at local cultural festivals, monthly Zapotec language Clases, and one-day immersive language Camps.

Working Picture

PhD student Kelsey Sasaki (left) and undergraduate Brianda Caldera (right) working with a resident of Laxopa

The Zapotec Language Project continues a long tradition within the Department of Lingusitics at UC Santa Cruz of engagement with indigenous communities of Mesoamerica. Many faculty and students have long-standing research interests in these languages. There have been dissertations on Mayan (Bennett 2012, Henderson 2011), Mixtec (Ostrove 2018), and Zapotec (Black 1994) languages. In recent years, these activities have been coordinated by the Workshop on the Languages of Mesoamerica (WLMA).