The Zapotec Indians lived in the region of Central America and Mexico between 500 BC and 1500 AD, and their stories are now integrated into the surviving Zapotec culture within the Oaxaca region in Mexico today. Stories passed down through the centuries of oral tradition were a means of transmitting wisdom, including the values of the Zapotec people and lessons about life in society, respect for the earth, and even nonviolence.
One surviving legend is that of Lucia Zenteno, written down by Zapotec activist and poet, Alejandro Cruz Martinez:
Lucia Zenteno was a beautiful woman. She had long flowing black hair that shone so brightly that people said it “outshone the sun.” Beauty can at times be terrifying, and Lucia Zenteno, was ostracized by her town. But the river loved her very much. So much, that when she was forced to leave, the river decided to leave with her, absorbed in her hair, with all of the various river animals in it as well. The people of the village were surprised to see that their river left them, and they experienced a severe drought. They realized that it had left because they were afraid of Lucia Zenteno. They went out in search of her and finally found her in a nearby cave. They begged her to return, and she said that she would, on the condition that they would always be compassionate and generous to those who were different from themselves. They willingly agreed, and so she returned with the river and there was a great celebration. When the celebrations were over, they realized that Lucia Zenteno was no longer there “in the body.” But they know they she would always be with them.
Alejandro Cruz Martinez gave his life not only to preserve such stories, but in the struggle giving back water rights to his people. His interest in Lucia Zenteno was not a coincidence. She came to him, didn’t she?
Think about a struggle in which you are actively engaged or interested. Find a story from your tradition that empowers that struggle in some way, like the story of Lucia Zenteno.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com