The mixe community calls itself Ayuukjä’äy. The language they speak is Ayuuk, which is the name by which the group is historically known. The word ayuuk is composed of: a which means language, word; yuuk: mountain, flower and yä’äy: people, crowd. Therefore, its meaning is “people of flowery language”.
In 2015, the Mixe Community of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec was involved in an international controversy somewhat in spite of itself. When the French designer Isabel Marrant launched her Etoile collection in which she uses Ayuujk embroidery without specifying that she is not the creator and without making reference to the Mexican origins of this embroidery, which is also part of the cosmogony of this region of Oaxaca.
The Mixe Region is located in the northeast of the state of Oaxaca. It borders to the northwest the old neighborhoods of Villa Alta; to the north Choapam and the state of Veracruz; to the south Yautepec and to the southeast Juchitán and Tehuantepec. The territory covers a total area of 4,668.55 km2. The municipalities that the community inhabits are : Asunción Cacalotepec, Mixistlán de la Reforma, San Juan Cotzocón, San Juan Guichicovi, San Juan Juquila Mixes, San Juan Mazatlán, San Lucas Camotlán, San Miguel Quetzaltepec, San Pedro Ocotepec, San Pedro and San Pablo Ayutla, Santa María Alotepec, Santa María Tepantlali, Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, Santiago Atitlán, Santiago Ixcuintepec, Santiago Zacatepec, Santo Domingo Tepuxtepec, Tamazulápam del Espíritu Santo and Totontepec Villa de Morelos.
The other Mixe communities are agencies of the municipalities of Magdalena Tequisistlán (San Pedro Jilotepec), Nejapa de Madero (San Sebastián Jilotepec, Agua Blanca), San Carlos Yautepec (Santa María Nizaviguiti), San Miguel Nizaviguiti), Santo Domingo Roayaga (Santa María Tonaguía) and Santo Domingo Tehuantepec (Santa María Nativitas Coatlán, San José El Paraíso, Santa Isabel de La Reforma). There are also mixe communities in the municipalities of San Juan Lalana (Paso del Águila), Santo Domingo Petapa (San Isidro Platanillo) and Villa Hidalgo (Pozo Conejo), as well as in the municipality of Santiago Sochiapan, Veracruz.
For mixes, health is the result of balance and harmony, good behavior, and respect for ancestral and Christian deities.
There are three types of illnesses among the ayuuk: those of “natural” origin, such as empacho and constipation; those of “supernatural” origin, which result from man’s imbalance with nature and society (examples of these illnesses are “the evil eye”, “sadness”, illnesses acquired through sleep, etc.). In the latter cases, the sick go to specialists in indigenous medicine. Thirdly, there are diseases that do not have a “well-defined” origin.
Music can be considered the main artistic activity that the ayuuk cultivate. As for handicrafts, we find the loom at the waist, the characteristic ayuuk embroidery on cotton blouses that are known and famous in the world. After the Ayuuk embroidery blouse controversy, the use of blouses, blazers has now become more popular thanks to Ayuuk embroidery. Example with some presenters on French television.
The house Mixe is characterized by the provision of a patio and / or a backyard for the cultivation of certain fruit trees, ornamental and medicinal plants, and additional space for beasts of burden.
In general, lack of drainage and running water are two of the main problems facing the Ayuuk.
For the Mixe people, the being is composed of two “souls”, one mortal and the other immortal tso’ok (tona, tonalli), which corresponds to the indigenous vision. The tona tso’ok is acquired when the birth of an individual and that of an animal coincide. In order to know the tonality of the newborn, the ritual calendar and the reading of the ashes are used. The tonas are classified as “strong”: properties of healers, “strong bad”: characteristics of witches and “weak” (good or bad) belonging to ordinary mortals. The ritual calendar, also called tonalamatl, is consulted for the luck or fate of the people. The consultation of the tonalamatl is done with grains of red corn, which are placed on a carpet and the specialist is in charge of making the corresponding reading. Another type of calendar is the agricultural calendar that the elderly consult to know the weather conditions that will prevail over the next twelve months.
The religion practiced by the ayuuk is the result of the syncretic mixture of the natives and the Catholics. Currently, ceremonies can be observed where prayers and invocations to the ancient gods are mixed with Christian prayers.
Festivals in the Mixe Community are important for several reasons: events of a Christian religious nature are organized in honor of the patron saint, where pre-Hispanic worship is usually found. They bind and strengthen the bonds of union between localities, generate social advancement within the community by holding positions such as stewardship and, finally, promote trade and intensify inter-regional social relations.
The festivals that take place in the upper and middle areas of the Ayuuk region are characterized by the confrontation between different groups in “musical duels”. The dances fulfill functions of community integration. Carnivals allow the social relaxation of the group. Finally, we find the pilgrimages that are usually made outside the region to sacred sites such as Santa Catarina Albarradas, San Pablo Güila Tlacolula, Otatitlán, to Veracruz and to visit the Black Christ of Esquipulas in Guatemala.
Our collaborators of the Bordados Ambaa collective come from this community that lives in San Juan Guichicovi. Their proximity to the isthmus of Tehuantepec and the Zapotec community allows for a very interesting mix of cultures, such as huipiles embroidered with bright flowers and filigree earrings.