Teaching Summary: Ticha

Nina Beriss

Are you interested in learning what resources are available through Ticha? Do you want to learn how to incorporate Ticha’s digital resources in your classroom? Do you want to teach your students about navigating digitized colonial manuscripts?

Overview: This module is a guided tour of Ticha, a digital text explorer for Colonial Zapotec, created to help students learn to navigate the site before working through other lessons in Caseidyneën Saën. Using examples from the site, this chapter shows how to explore manuscripts and understand metadata. The lesson also instructs students on searching for other manuscripts, navigating documents, and filtering results by different criteria. Finally, students practice these skills by exploring Cordova’s Arte en lengua zapoteca as the lesson guides them in understanding the document’s transcription and translation.

Grade Level Recommendations:  High school or university students

Courses and Units: This module is recommended as an introduction for units that will incorporate multiple lessons from Caseidyneën Saën; also appropriate for units focusing on digital scholarship.

Time: This module can be taught in 1–1.5 hours; may be shortened by dropping later sections; well-designed for independent and/or take-home work.

Major Points (by section):

  • There are many Zapotec languages, and there are more than 400,000 speakers of these languages today, despite discriminatory beliefs and practices that devalorize Zapotec people, languages, and culture. While there is evidence of Zapotec writing dating back to 500 B.C.E., many documents exist from the colonial period when Zapotec language writers began using the Latin alphabet. These documents include wills, receipts, and other legal documents, and some were translated into Spanish; these documents help us learn about the history of Zapotec people and languages.
  • Though many colonial Zapotec documents have been preserved, they are difficult to find and access as they are mainly stored in archives in places like Mexico City or the U.S., far from where they were written. They can be difficult to read due to their handwriting and  language changes, and their archives’ metadata can make them hard to locate. The Ticha Project was founded to make them more accessible by providing images of documents along with metadata, transcriptions, translations, and other contextual information.
  • On Ticha, an image and metadata is provided for each page of a manuscript. The metadata providing information such as the type of document, when and where it was written, and the archive where it is stored. Users can also navigate through various tabs to see translations and transcriptions and download a PDF of the document.
  • Ticha provides various ways to find other documents. Users can click the ‘Explore’ tab to filter documents by time period using a timeline, or by location using a map. The ‘Text’ tab allows users to see a list of all available manuscripts, and they can be sorted by metadata, particular labels, or other criteria.
  • On Ticha, users can also view books written in or about Zapotec, such as the Arte en lengua Zapoteca, a grammar of Colonial Valley Zapotec written by a Spanish priest. Readers can select sections of this large text to explore using the outline, and navigate between the original text and a modern Spanish version of the text. In the transcription, users can locate Zapotec words in the text and see translations and more details about each word.

Guiding Questions (by section):

  • The Ticha Project: Try transcribing text from the image provided – in what ways does this handwriting look different from handwriting you might be used to now? Did transcribing the text get you excited to try and transcribe more?  Did you recognize some words?
  • Explore a Manuscript: Read through the metadata for the document provided – where is the information located on the page? Can you identify the Archive, Collection, Call Number, and Page Numbers for this document?
  • Find Other Documents: Scroll through the timeline – are there particular time periods where there are more/fewer documents, and what factors may be contributing to these differences? Choose a town that interests you – how many manuscripts are available from that town, what types of documents are they, how many of them are written in Zapotec, and how many in Spanish?
  • Explore Cordova’s Arte: What did you learn about Zapotec history and language by looking through this website? If you speak a Zapotec language, how do you describe something that is very small in your language, and is it the same as what Cordova describes here?

Before teaching this unit: View conference presentations about the creation of Caseidyneën Saën-Learning Together

More resources: 

  • Chapter accessible here: Ticha
  • Full textbook accessible here: Caseidyneën Saën – Learning Together 
  • Help expand and improve Ticha’s resources by transcribing documents – watch this video to learn how you can contribute!
  • Explore another printed book on Colonial Valley Zapotec – view Feria’s Doctrina, a bilingual Spanish-Zapotec Catholic doctrine
  • Webseries on current day Valley Zapotec language reclamation efforts:
  • Join in a community: Tweet about this work or read others tweeting about it!  #ZapotecoColonial


Caseidyneën Saën - Learning Together Copyright © by Nina Beriss. All Rights Reserved.

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