Zapotec refers to a native people of Mexico, their language family consisting of more than 15 languages, and their historic culture and traditions. Today, most of the Zapotec languages are endangered.
The Zapotec people are centered in Oaxaca, to the south of central Mexico. In Pre-Columbian times they were one of the Mesoamerican civilizations. Archeological evidence shows their culture goes back some 2500 years. They left archaelogical evidence at the earlier and impressive ancient city of Monte Albán; in the form of buildings, ball courts, magnificent tombs and grave goods including finely worked gold jewellery. Monte Albán was the the first major city in the western hemisphere and the center of a Zapotec State that dominated much of what we know of as the current state of Oaxaca. The Zapotecs developed a calendar and a logophonetic system of writing that used a separate glyph to represent each of the syllables of the language. This writing system is considered to be the basis of the other Mesoamerican writing systems developed by the Olmec, Epi-Olmec, Maya, Mixtec, and Aztec civilizations. In the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, there were Zapotec and Mixtec artisans living in the city whose role it was to fashion jewellery for the Aztec Tlatoanis, or rulers. These included the famous Motecuhzoma II. Relations with central Mexico go back much further however, as attested by the archeological remains of a Zapotec neighborhood within Teotihuacan and a Teotihuacan styled "guest house" on Monte Albán. Other important Pre-Columbian Zapotec sites include Lambityeco, Dainzu, Mitla, Yagul , San Jose Mogote, and Zaachila.
The most famous Zapotec person in modern times was Benito Juárez, generally regarded as Mexico's greatest President.
There are over 400,000 Zapotec people living in Mexico today.
- Zapotec Culture (in English and Spanish)