The Battle over the Zapotec Bible

Singing hymns

hide captionRebecca Long and members of Yaganiza's evangelical community sing from hymnals in the Zapotec language.

Marianne McCune

The latest installment in the Worlds of Difference series documenting the impact of global change on local cultures comes from Yaganiza, an indigenous pueblo in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca.

'Worlds of Difference' on NPR

Producer Marianne McCune explores the issues surrounding the translation of the Bible into the local Zapotec language.

American linguist Rebecca Long is working with the villagers on the New Testament translation. Long is with Dallas-based SIL International, an often-controversial group that has helped document and preserve hundreds of dying languages, like Zapoteco, around the world. The organization's linguists are devoted to the idea of bringing the word of God to all peoples.

Yaganiza's small population of evangelical Christians are thrilled with Long's work, but the translation effort has alienated some of the pueblo's majority Catholics.

As with many worldwide cultural efforts, the Zapotec Bible project has meant more difficult choices for all the people of Yaganiza as they weigh which traditions are worth keeping and which they can let go.

The Worlds of Difference series is produced for NPR by Homelands Productions in Tucson, Ariz.

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