Coatecas Altas Zapotec
(ISO code zca)



Coatecas Altas Zapotec is spoken in an area in and around the town of Coatecas Altas, in the district of Ejutla, south of the city of Oaxaca in Oaxaca state. (See map.) According to the 2010 INEGI census, there are 4712 speakers in the municipality of Coatecas Altas.

Map: The location of Coatecas Altas in Mexico


People who live in Coatecas Altas estimate that there are as many as 3300 more speakers, some of whom come and go. In addition, some speakers of Coatecas Altas Zapotec, about 200 families, migrated over fifty years ago to the town of San Bernardino, on the Oaxacan coast. Today there is a population of about 1500 people living there. Others migrated to Chiapas, especially in and around Soconusco, which is on the coast. Currently, many Coatecos are working in the north of Mexico, and in the United States and Canada. Many live permanently in Baja California Norte (especially in and around San Quintín). Many of the people who are in northern Mexico return to the village for the Day of the Dead.

The inhabitants themselves call their town Latyezh. This word is composed of the word lach, which means ‘meadow’ or ‘flat place’, and the word yezh, which means ‘town’.


Coatecas Altas town hall


Many women in Coatecas Altas weave palm leaves into mats, fans, baskets and other items.




As mentioned above, in Coatecas Altas Zapotec, the word generally used to say ‘town’ is yezh. A different word, lazh, is used to say ‘town’ when there is reference to a particular person who belongs to the town, as in lazha, ‘my town’ and lazh xa', ‘his/her town’.




--Joseph P. Benton and Mary Benton


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