The Mixteco People

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                       28 Jan 2008


The rugged Mixteca Mountains of southern Mexico is the birthplace of a great and noble people.  Even before the Mayans … before the Aztecs, … there were the Mixteco people.  Some say that in the misty beginning of time, … gods planted trees along the River of Lineage.  It was from these majestic trees, … these holy trees … that the Mixteco nation came into being.  Others say that the people did not come from the trees but … instead … the gods molded them from ears of corn and eventually these men of corn populated the world. 

In reality, the Mixteco people became one of the major civilizations of Mesoamerica.  The Aztecs finally conquered them about 30 years prior to the arrival of the Spanish.  Eventually, the Spanish subdued them; nevertheless, they hung onto much of their original culture and traditions.  Today, the Mixteco people claim allegiance to the Catholic Church but still practice many of their pagan beliefs.  They have also retained their original language with over 50 dialects spoken today. 

 The Mixteco people have migrated throughout the Americas but most live in southern Mexico mainly in the State of Oaxaca.  Thousands continue to migrate to the United States for work.  Today, the Mixteco population totals about 400,000.

The Mixtecos have always been farmers. Often, a herd of goats or a cornfield is near where they live.  Abundio is one of these farmers.  He has ten milk cows in his dairy herd from which he supports his extended family.  Abundio is proud of his farm and works to make the operation more profitable.  Occasionally, he travels out of Mexico to earn additional money while his family continues to work with the dairy herd during his absence. 

 Farmers frequently till the soil with a wooden plough made from carefully selected tree limbs and pulled by a team of oxen.  Tractors are available but at a very high cost to the farmers.  In some places, the increased tillage and overworking of the land has caused serious erosion making the land unproductive. 

Corn was cultivated in this area long before the Spanish arrived in the new world.  It continues to be the major food crop.  The native corn variety used here is not very productive making it difficult to grow enough to meet the needs of one’s family.  Hybrid corn varieties have been tried but with little success because of the annual expense in purchasing the seed and the additional fertilizer required. 

 Much of the farm work is done by hand.  Typically, the hired hands receive less than $5 a day for their efforts.   In order to earn more money, many men work in the United States and Canada as well as other parts of Mexico.  Families left at home wait in line at the bank to receive the money wired to them. This income is important since it represents a large portion of the local economy.  Some purchase a vehicle in the United States and drive back to Mexico retaining the original license plate for many years.

While employment elsewhere provides a good source of income, it also causes many problems.  There are few young men living in the communities … just   the old and the young.  In many families, there is no man present.  The woman left behind must take on the added burden of looking after the family alone while the father is gone for six months to two years at a time.   Children are left without good male role models.  The absence of young men also makes it difficult to find leaders and pastors for churches.  Leadership is left to the women. On the other hand, many of the men who stay in the area seem to spend their time talking, drinking, or in a drunken stupor wandering around the town square, … the zocalo, …  or asleep on the step of the central monument.  This lifestyle is often a serious problem even among professed Christians.  The wife is left to provide for the family.  Teaching believers to stand firm against areas of temptation is an important ministry. 

Most of the residents, ... as well as the visitors, ... to the large city of Tlaxiaco are Mixtecos.  The zocalo is where many come to shop, sell food and handcrafts, or perhaps to visit with their friends.  The Mixteco women make beautiful hand-embroidered blouses and skirts.  Many hours are spent in creating these garments for themselves as well as to sell to others.   On the other hand, the Trique Indians, … who also live in the area, … wear colorful pink and white dresses.

Superstition and the Catholic Church are intertwined to make the tightly held and strongly defended belief system for the Mixteco.  The Santo Niño, the Holy Child, exemplifies the pervasive mixing of superstition and Christianity.  During this festival time, dolls are dressed in colorful costumes and brought to the Catholic priest for special blessings.  These dolls, in some way, are representative of the baby Jesus.  It is thought that those who pray to a sanctified doll will receive good fortune.

 The Catholic Church has a very strong hold on the people.  Inside the church, the statues and paintings conjure up a strong emotional and sacrificial appeal to the worshippers.  This domination by the Catholic Church has been perpetuated through the centuries and has an almost unbreakable hold on the Mixteco people.  This tightly held bond makes it very difficult for missionaries representing evangelical Christians to develop trust and friendships with the residents.  Helping to meet physical needs through training in better farming practices has proven to be a successful venue in reaching out to the people. 

An agricultural training center called DECEMEX has been established in Oaxaca and provides classroom training and hands-on experience for many of those in the area.  The facility includes a dormitory, a kitchen, and an auditorium.  National missionaries and pastors are trained in simple reproducible agriculture technology.  They will then be able to better feed their families and be more effective as they share the Good News of Jesus.  These simple technologies continue to be effective ministry tools for reaching out and sharing Christ’s love with non-Christians. 

Evangelical churches among the Mixteco people are few.  Some have been in existence for many years but growth is slow because of the difficulty in getting younger believers to make the commitment to serve in a leadership capacity.

Although they are in their 80's, Pastor Philippe and his wife, Ofelia, still minister at First Baptist Church in the community of Cuauhtemoc.  The church building is well constructed and in excellent condition.  However, after being in the ministry for many years, this couple is well past retirement age.  Their desire is for a young pastor to take over responsibility for this church.  Pastor Philippe and Ofelia pray for a man to come and provide this small group of believers with new leadership in reaching the Mixteco people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Will you join with them in this earnest prayer?

You can be a prayer warrior for the Mixteco people.

 ·        Pray for the breaking of the bonds of superstition and Catholic tradition among the Mixteco People.

Overlay:  Break Bonds of Superstition and Tradition

·        Pray for strong and courageous men of faith that can be taught to train new leaders.

Overlay:  New Leaders

·        Pray that churches will be planted and that they will multiply among the Mixteco People.

Overlay:  Every believer a trainer.  Every home a church

Closing scene – Philippe and Jim walking off together

Overlay:  Pray as we build personal relationships


Abundio                                  ah-BOON-dee-oh

Aztecs                                     AS-teks
Cuauhtemoc                           Cuah-THE-mock
DECEMEX                            DES-eh-mex

Mayans                                  MY-uns
Mixteco                                  meek-STEH-coh
Mixteca                                  meek-STEH-cah
Oaxaca                                   wa-HA-ka

Ofelia                                      oh-FELL-ee-ah
Philippe                                   phil-EE-pay
Santo Niño                              SAN-toe NEEN-yoh
Tlaxiaco                                  la-hee-AH-coh

Trique                                     TREE-key
Zocalo                                     SOE-cah-low


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