About the La Ventosa collection

This website presents data from a selection of culturally and ecologically significant plants found in La Ventosa, a municipality located near the city of Juchitán de Zaragoza in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The data were collected as part of a lexico-botanical documentation project, with the objective of documenting traditional plant knowledge and plant names in Diidxazá, the variety of Isthmus Zapotec spoken in La Ventosa. The research project, which took place between September 2013 and September 2015, included one year of plant collection and one year of data processing and production of educational materials for use in the local community.

The data presented here are part of an archive of over 1,300 herbarium specimens. Among these, 288 have a Diidxazá plant name and an ethnobotanical description in Diidxazá, Spanish, and English. Most of these plants have also been photographed in high resolution, resulting in a photographic archive of around 2,000 images. In addition, the project team recorded over 200 audio files of plant descriptions as delivered by Diidxazá speakers and local knowledge-bearers. The complete collection is available for free on this site, which was created by the project team with the goal of making the results of the investigation more widely available.

Each plant record is presented with its Diidxazá name as well as its Linnaean (scientific) name and its common name in Spanish (when available). Records also include botanical information and a text describing local knowledge about the plant. You will also find official Smithsonian US National Herbarium images for each specimen and high-resolution photographs of flowers and fruits for each plant, which may be useful in identifying plants you are familiar with. Endangered plants as well as those endemic to the region and subject to special protection are indicated with a special symbol.

It should be noted that the plant descriptions presented on this site represent the knowledge shared by a group of local experts in La Ventosa. For this reason, the names of the plants and certain aspects of the plant descriptions may differ from those in other parts of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, even in areas near Juchitán de Zaragoza. The Spanish and Diidxazá plant descriptions were written so that the information included in the descriptions is consistent, however they were not intended to be literal translations of one another. The descriptions are written in a colloquial style with the goal of making the information accessible to a wide audience. It is important to emphasize that mentions of medicinal uses in certain plant descriptions are not to be taken as medical advice. An investigation of the medicinal effects of these plants was outside the scope and objectives of the current project. By the same token, the information about plant abundance is an informal assessment by the collector in the location where the plant samples were collected. This information should not be interpreted as an official ecological evaluation of the distribution or abundance of the species.

This research project sought to promote awareness about the importance of conserving the Diidxazá language as well as knowledge about the local environment and ecology. Diidxazá has approximately 100,000 speakers and belongs to a family of languages that is at least 1,500 years old. However, in 21 of the 22 Diidxazá-speaking municipalities, no children speak the language.* In other words, there is a clear pattern of language shift in favor of Spanish threatening the survival of Diidxazá. At the same time, the region is experiencing environmental decline, which is likely due to a reduced interest in nature and the disappearance of traditional ecological knowledge. We hope that this site will help to spark public interest, especially among young people, to become researchers in their own communities by working with the Diidxazá speakers and knowledge-bearers in their own families, as a way to expand documentation of language, nature, and traditional knowledge in the community and preserve their cultural heritage at both the individual and family level.

You may download a PDF with info cards on a selection of plants here: Infografias Ligero.pdf

You may download a PDF of the PDF xti Cuaderno de Lectoescritura del Zapoteco del Istmo: Cuaderno_Final.pdf


* Marcial Cerqueda, Vicente. 2014 ms. Plan de acción para el impulso de la lengua zapoteca en el Programa de Gobierno Municipal 2014-2016.