SIL Mexico

Mitla Zapotec
(East Central Tlacolula Zapoteco,
East Valley Zapoteco)

(ISO code zaw)



Welcome to Mitla
“Welcome to Mitla” (Spanish)


San Pablo Villa de Mitla is located east of Oaxaca City, in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico (see map). It is the center of an important variety of Zapotec.

map: where Mitla is located
view from fort hill of the town of Mitla

There are more than 15,000 inhabitants, according to the authorities in Mitla (cited from personal communication 2004).


Mitla municipal hall


The town of Mitla, which means ‘place of the dead’ in Nahuatl (Aztec) is home to some very well-preserved Zapotec ruins which are remarkable for the detail of the fretwork (grecas) on the walls. Through the years, Mitla has become a popular tourist destination.

Mitla pyramid with grecas
Mitla pyramid with grecas
Mitla arroyo ruins
Mitla arroyo ruins

The word form for ‘Zapotec’ is cognate in many Zapotec languages, but each variant seems to have its own form. The Mitleños call their language didxsaj. The root didx means ‘word’; saj means ‘slick’. Hence the word means ‘word grease’. In other words it is the language that comes out easily, their hometown language. The other languages are didxzijt ‘word far’ or ste'ca didxsaj ‘another slick word’ for any language other than their own.


“May your trip go well.” (in Mitla Zapotec)


—Morris Stubblefield and Carol (Miller) Stubblefield


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