Chochos, Ixcatecs, and Popolucas
Emigration and Spanish literacy are fast reducing the number of speakers of Chocho, Ixcatec, and Popoluca, three related tongues of the dry canyonlands of northwest Oaxaca. Of the three, the Chocho people are dominant in their extensive homeland around Coixtlahuaca and subsidiary centers of Tequixtepec and Tepelmeme. If you’re going to hear any of the Chocho language, it will probably be in the market at Tepelmeme de Morelos, just off the Oaxaca–Puebla expressway about 15 miles (24 km) north of Coixtlahuaca.
Defeated by the Mixtecs in the 1300s and the Aztecs a hundred years later, the Chochos were again subdued by Spanish conquistadores Orozco and Alvarado in 1522 and later converted by Dominican Father Fermín Abrego. Coixtlahuaca was a thriving Chocho and Ixcatec market until around 1900, but loss of topsoil to erosion has forced many families to emigrate.
If you’re going to hear any Ixcatec at all, it will be in Ixcatlán, the sole Ixcatec municipio, accessible by dirt road about 20 miles (32 km) northeast from Coixtlahuaca. The same is approximately true of Popoluca, whose few remaining speakers in Oaxaca live in the sliver of territory by the Puebla border, around Santiago Chazumba on Highway 125.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition