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Mexico's Isthmus Zapotec on death, healing and pilgrimage

  • Men carry coyol (palm flowers) in a Vela parade. Coyol is handed out to bystanders along the way, and what remains is left at the parish church. Photo courtesy Anya Peterson Royce.

The Isthmus Zapotec, an indigenous people who comprise about 70 percent of the population of Juchitan, a city in the south of Mexico, practice a melding of Catholic and indigenous spiritual traditions. In a slide illustrated lecture, anthropologist Anya Peterson Royce shows how the Zapotec use flowers, processions and prayer in rituals that protect and guide spirits on their journey of dying. She also describes the Day of the Dead and Holy Week rituals and the role of the community healer.

Anya Peterson Royce is Chancellor's Professor of Anthropology and Comparative Literature at Indiana University. She also serves as adjunct professor in folklore and ethnomusicology, the Russian and East European Institute, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She is the author of "Becoming an Ancestor: The Isthmus Zapotec Way of Death" (SUNY Press, 2011).

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