Book CoverSymbolism of Papyrus as Background Design:
The people of Lachigolo were familiar with 'type' of annual summer resident anthropologist. But I did not fit the image. They searched for a way to accept me -- an Egyptian anthropologist, from the United States, living with them in a Zapotec village. They then made the connection between being Egyptian, being Arab, being Andalusian, and the Andalusian mixing with Mexican native populations after conquest. I was then ritually welcomed as a "relative". Later, when people invited me to baptize children I reminded them that, not only were I not Catholic, I was not Christian at all. Their answer was "we don't care, do you?

From Preface xiii-xvii

Foreword by Henry A. Selby

"The ethnography of Abel Hernández Jiménez is a revelation of the Zapotec soul, where the real and imaginary is like an open fabric of strands that are interlaced and knotted: the very essence of their lives . . . spiritual discourse of the people."-- The Journal of Religion

"Four life-crisis rituals are described in detail: baptism, a funeral for an unmarried person, weddings, and a funeral for a married person. The book is an excellent study on the rationale of cultural-bearers as important sources for critical, unbiased understanding of ritual."-- Choice




Abel's mother, Luisa Jimenez, was
a strong woman who managed all aspects of life in the Hernandez household (solar). She adored her younger son Abel and called him 'mi Abel'. After she died Abel missed her visibly and his life deteriorated. He drank too much and later died from liver complications. His death saddened and devastated me. I visited Oaxaca the subsequent Dia de Los Muertos and joined his wife, son, and two daughters, on the walk to the cemetery at sunset.. Most people of the village of Lachigolo were there to put flowers on graves of loved ones and ceremonially receive their dead relatives on their annual visit.


I went to the field, Lachigolo, Oaxaca, for a year's study for my Ph.D. dissertation research in 1970. I had already been studying this village for many months since 1967, having entered it through the Stanford NSF-funded summer field school. My daughter, Magda, was three months old at the time and nursing. Magda joined me on many subsequent trips to Lachigolo. The people in the village loved her, calling her la huera, and borrowed her from house to house during my stay. I had gone to the village this time to baptize Diana, the daughter of Abel. Magda is seen here holding Diana.  A few years later Diana died and I went to Lachigolo to ritually head the funeral ceremony and burial as Diana's madrina de bautizo.

This was taken in September 1976 in Lachigolo, Oaxaca, Mexico during my field research. Magda and Khalid were ready to go the cornfield with David, Abel's older brother, to collect alfalfa for the animals. Magda was six years old and Khalid was two. Both Magda and Khalid began going to the field with me when they were three months old. I spent a total period of about 32 months extending over 12 years studying Valley Zapotec life.

 This is Khalid in Lachigolo at five years old,  on the wall between Abel's house and the house of Abel's brother.  By then, Lachigolo had become an occasional home for him. He made friends and had a good time. . This  photo was taken in 1979.