Foundation for Endangered Languages

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11. Valedictory

Lino de la Rosa

Dennis Holt sent us this:

Yes, I am the one you were looking for,
the only one who truly speaks the language of our people,
that once so many more had as their daily tongue.
That young show-off Isidro
acts like he knows how to speak,
but all he ever says
are those trite little phrases
he picked up from his uncle.
His uncle did speak the language quite well,
and in fact was the one who told Juan Alden Mason
everything he came to know about our tongue
when he came here to visit so many years ago,
as you have now done.
I remember Juan Alden Mason very well:
He used to take that little table he had brought
and set it up
way up there
in different places on the canyonside
and draw maps and pictures of our canyon.
He came a number of times
when I was still in my teens
and then he didn’t come anymore.
It is true that I have no one to talk with anymore,
but there still are many for me to talk to.
Do you remember
when I was called away from my little candy-stand
to visit that gentleman’s sister?



Then I was able to again use my language
as few men ever knew how it was done.
Perhaps some day
I will tell you of some of that too,
and show you more
than merely those two special feathers
that I ran down over you,
shoulders to hips,
and then let you hold,
that night when we met in my kitchen.
If you come back again,
perhaps I will tell you of some of those things.
As my wife told you once,
it takes at least three visits
for someone to see what is happening here.
When I am gone,
there will be no one else
who will speak the language of our people,
no one who can name the birds and the trees.

Dennis comments: Lino de la Rosa was the last speaker of Tepecano, a divergent dialect of the Uto-Aztecan language Southern Tepehuán. I found him in Atzqueltlán, Jalisco, Mexico -- the traditional home of the Tepecano people -- first in 1965, while I was still an undergraduate at Berkeley, and then again when I returned to visit with him and gather data about his language in 1979-80.

He was born in 1895, so it is unlikely that he or the language/dialect are still alive. But I have received no actual report about his having passed on.