Teaching Summary: Twitter and Zapotec Language Activism

Nina Beriss

Are you interested in exploring how speakers of Indigenous languages use social media as a tool for language activism? Do you want to share with your students how digital spaces are used in language revitalization and reclamation? Are you looking for ways to have your students be involved in supporting language activists?

Overview: This lesson introduces students to Zapotec Twitter and the ways that Zapotec language speakers use social media for promoting Indigenous language use by sharing linguistic and cultural knowledge to a wider audience. The module discusses how hashtags, multimedia posts, and other aspects of Twitter are used to create an online community of people with connections to Indigenous languages. In addition, this chapter discusses how to respectfully engage with these digital spaces as non-Zapotec users, and includes reflections from members of Zapotec communities about what Zapotec Twitter means to them.

Grade Level Recommendations:  High school and college students.

Courses and Units: This module is appropriate for courses on data literacy, information literacy, media studies, linguistics, Indigenous studies, and Latin American studies.

Time: This module can be taught in approximately 2 – 3 hours.

Major Points (by section):

  • Zapotec language speakers use social media as a tool for creating digital spaces to promote Indigenous languages and share knowledge with a large audience. One goal of Ticha is to make Zapotec language information more accessible to members and non-members of the Zapotec community, and social media is an efficient way to do so by sharing vocabulary, thoughts, art, and writing.
  • Twitter hashtags like #UsaTuVoz (created by Voces del Valle) and #ZapotecoColonial were created and used to promote Indigenous language use and to foster a multilingual digital space to form an online educational community around Indigenous language. These hashtags also signal that non-Zapotec people are welcome to read and engage with these particular tweets. Using platforms like Twitter helps to combat the idea that Zapotec is no longer spoken or that Zapotec is not a “modern” language.
  • Twitter’s “Advanced search” feature helps with navigating these hashtags and narrowing your search down to Tweets from particular users or time periods. Users can share multimedia posts, and you can interact with Tweets through “likes” and “retweets” to help Zapotec content reach larger audiences. When navigating these spaces, it is important to not intrude in spaces that are intended for Zapotec community member participation only, as not every Zapotec social media user wishes to participate in spaces that include non-Zapotec individuals and networks. Users can amplify the voices of Zapotec Twitter by retweeting or sharing posts with friends.
  • This lesson also includes accounts from Moisés García Guzmán (@BnZunni) and Felipe H. Lopez (@DizhSa) on the importance of Zapotec Twitter and why they tweet. Their reasons include strengthening their languages, passing on knowledge, showing that Zapotec is not a language of the past, and interacting with other Zapotec writers/speakers.

Guiding Questions (by section):

  • Accessibility of Social Media: What is language activism and how can social media be used for it? Where have you seen Indigenous language activism happen? What are some possibilities for the future for Indigenous language representation and how else can it be encouraged and amplified?
  • Using Zapotec Twitter:  Compare the tweets that you find and compare them with your varieties of Zapotec that you, your family, or community speaks. Which words do you have in common? What differences can you find?
  • Why Do We Tweet?: Look at Felipe and Moisés’ accounts – what common themes exist between their language activisms? Why might they share different content? Observe the multilingual space that accounts invested in Zapotec language revitalization create – why might Spanish and English be used alongside Zapotec?

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

More resources: 


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