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San Vicente Coatlán town hall
San Vicente Coatlán Zapotec
(Southern Ejutla Zapotec)

(ISO code zpt)

The language spoken in San Vicente Coatlán is a member of the Zapotec language family. The language area is located in southern Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca, Ejutla District, 90 km. south of Oaxaca city. San Vicente Coatlán is the principal town of the municipality of the same name (see map); most of the rest of the municipality is Spanish speaking.


Map: Location of San Vicente Coatlán within Mexico Map: Location of San Vicente Coatlán in Oaxaca

This variant has sometimes been referred to as Coatlán Zapotec, but there is another, mutually-unintelligible variant of Zapotec (ISO code zps), spoken in and near Santo Domingo Coatlán, to the south of the San Vicente Coatlán area. This variant has also been called Coatlán Zapotec, and in fact is so listed in the Ethnologue and the ISO catalogue.


There are about 3800 speakers of the language in the town of San Vicente Coatlán, according to the 2000 INEGI census.

Zapotec woman

The local economy is based primarily on subsistence agriculture, with the primary products being corn, black beans, and squash.

View of San Vicente Coatlán

The women of San Vicente Coatlán are noted for their production of the “blusa chenteña”, a heavily embroidered blouse with 3/4 length sleeves. These blouses are made of cotton muslin with repeating patterns featuring animals, flowers and people, cross-stitched across the shoulders and the upper body. The woman in the pictures below is wearing this kind of blouse with the traditional skirt that goes with it.


Woman weaving a petate
Weaving a petate (palm mat)
Woman at the door of her house
At the front door
Woman cooking tortillas
Making tortillas on the comal (clay griddle)

Linguistic note

Like many Zapotec languages San Vicente Coatlán Zapotec has different pronominal forms for first person inclusive and exclusive. This variant is unusual, however, in that it also has two first person dual inclusive pronouns, a familiar form and a respect form. The familiar form wa means ‘you (singular, familiar) and I’ (or ‘tú y yo’ in Spanish). The respect form una means ‘you (singular, respect) and I’ (or ‘usted y yo’ in Spanish).


John Wagner

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