Mixtec: musician

I met Dominic at the main plaza of Oaxaca in February 2019. I was having dinner at a restaurant with friends, visiting the town. He approached us, offering to play some songs on his guitar. I was surprised to hear modern pop songs rather than traditional music. Perhaps he just needed to be different, because there is a marimba band at the restaurant where we were sitting every night, and a mariachi band with folk songs comes along too. Well, Dominic had an option to play a traditional Mixtec song called katikubi; it improvises text from everyday life and is often played with three-string guitar or harmonica. For whatever reason, he opted for the Beatles; maybe such music pays him better.

I had a long chat with Dominic after his music and we then met him at the zócalo for four consecutive nights. He is a Mixtec, one of 16 indigenous groups in Oaxaca. He is probably the most cheerful indigenous person I met in Oaxaca. He speaks perfect English, which is not common with the natives of Oaxaca. A lot of them don’t even speak Spanish and they certainly don’t smile when talking to foreigners. I pressed his for some answers about his culture and how it feels to be from a unique tribe. The Mixtecs call themselves the Ñuu Savi, People of the Rain. They live on the Pacific slope of Oaxaca (and also Guerrero and Puebla) but their story is one of movement. They migrate from the Mixteca land to other parts of Oaxaca, Mexico and the United States, in search for work opportunities. This is certainly the story of Dominic who now lives in the city of Oaxaca. And this may be the reason why he is more open when he meets foreigners. It is interesting that this migrating tribe does not lose their sense of cultural identity. However, I feel that they are losing their language. Dominic can’t speak his native language (I met a lot of Zapotecs in Oaxaca who had also lost their native language, for that matter).

Marimba band in Oaxaca Zócalo.

Marimba band in Oaxaca Zócalo.

Mariachi band.

Mariachi band.


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