The Chatino people from Oaxaca, Mexico, believe that the departed begin a new life that is parallel to the world of the living, known in the Chatino language as JlyaG. In order to reach JlyaG, therecently departed must traverse on a treacherous path that goes through mountains, rivers, and towns. JlyaG is a metaphysical place that corresponds to an actual location in our plane of existence found towards the northern part of the Chatino region in the municipality of Zenzontepec (coordinates 16° 32′ 0″ N, 97° 30′ 0″ W).
Prayers, stories, myths, place, and performance are crucial elements in the practice and belief of the Chatino concept of the dead. In the Chatino town of San Marcos Zacatepec, when an adult dies, family members call an expert to perform a speech called TiA SuA KnaA or ‘prayer to the dead.’ The TiA SuA KnaA is recited at the dead person’s wake. The goal of the speech is to guide the dead through the trail of the dead and to encourage them not to come back and taunt their family members, friends, and community members either by showing up in individual’s dreams or appearing as a ghost quB tiqE.
The departed also need to demonstrate endurance, agility, and artistic skills. For example, when they reach a place called SaA tqenA, located in the town of Cieneguilla, San Juan Quiahije (coordinates 16.3000° N, 97.3167° W), the dead have to dance. The dead men, in addition to dancing, must whistle or sing. Women only have to dance. Hence, Chatinos believe that artistic abilities such as dancing, whistling, and singing must be learned and practiced during the course of a person’s lifetime. This presentation will discuss these aspects of Chatino conceptions of the dead and describe the verbal art of the rituals involved as the recently dead move on to JlyaG.