The Chichicápam Zapotec language area is located in Central Oaxaca, east of Ocotlán, centered around the town of San Baltazar Chichicápam (see map). The town’s name is sometimes spelled San Baltasar, and often spelled Chichicapan.
The 2000 INEGI census lists 2592 speakers in the municipality of San Baltazar Chichicápam; there are likely to be another 1500 or so speakers of the language in total.
The women in San Baltazar Chichicápam make wool thread that they sell to some other towns in the Oaxaca Valley, including Teotitlán de Valle. The women also embroider various articles, such as beautiful tortilla cloths which they sell or sometimes give as gifts. In the picture below, the older woman, who is carding wool, is wearing, as a head-covering, the traditional rebozo shawl, while the younger woman, who is spinning wool into thread with a malacate (spindle), wears the apron typical of women in many indigenous groups of Oaxaca in recent years.
The name “Chichicápam” comes from a Náhuatl word, chichik-a-pan/-pam ‘bitter-water-place’, or ‘the place of bitter water’. At present water is unusually plentiful, in comparison with many nearby towns, because of a dam built by the government in the early 1970's.
A tradition in Chichicápam is the “dance of the old people”, which occurs each year during Holy Week. The young men dress up as old men and women and put on masks, but also wear their hats. (Men almost always wear hats, and women do not.)
Chichicápam Zapotec, like other varieties of Zapotec, has a complex motion verb system, in which usage depends on whether the person is heading to his customary destination (base) or somewhere else (non-base). Here is a brief example. (The following abbreviations mark different verbal aspects: H=Habitual, C=Completive, Pr=Progressive, P=Potential, F=Future [definite], Irr=Irrealis.)
(both with high tone)
(both with low tone)
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