In this essay, I analyze a sample drawn from a corpus of about 107 alphabetic texts that were produced in a clandestine manner by Zapotec ritual specialists in northern Oaxaca, Mexico, during the second half of the seventeenth century. I argue that these texts represent an unusual appropriation of the Latin alphabet and of European literacy practices by local indigenous intellectuals. This development led to the inception of a novel textual genre, the biyee, an alphabetic, pluralistic, multilayered rendering of the Zapotec 260-day divinatory calendar. I also contend that, as they moved along social networks, these calendars mapped out literate modes of transmission of cosmological knowledge that linked individual specialists with both collective spheres and individual social spaces. In the end, the circulation of these texts provided an essential core for the reproduction of a clandestine public sphere.
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David Tavárez; Zapotec Time, Alphabetic Writing, and the Public Sphere. Ethnohistory 1 January 2010; 57 (1): 73–85. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-2009-054
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