Coloring Book Aims To Revive Cocopah Language

Jul 12, 2017

A Mexican author recently released a children’s coloring book that aims to help preserve the Cocopah language. It is one of the many Native American languages along the U.S. Mexico border that is fading from use.

KAWC’s Stephanie Sanchez reports. 

Samuel Roberto Lastra is an art teacher and writer in San Luis Rio Colorado.

He is the editor of “Los Que Llegaron Primero” Spanish for “Those Who Arrived First”.

The title refers to the Cocopah tribe, indigenous people who have lived along the Colorado River for thousands of years.

“The coloring book is an excuse to try to build a relationship with our local tribes in the state of Sonora," Lastra said in Spanish. "There are currently 8 tribes here and we started a series of similar books beginning with the Cocopah near the border.”

Cocopah tribal members who reside on three reservations near Somerton, Arizona, are considered part of a sovereign nation.

But the Cocopahs in Mexico, who live near San Luis Rio Colorado and Mexicali, aren’t officially recognized as tribal members by either country. They are simply Mexican citizens.

That’s why Lastra made the book Tri-lingual.

"You see the letter “W” with an accent over the A and is pronounced WA. Which means House in Cocopah," Lastra said in Spanish. "Children or adults can easily pick up on this. Then you see the word translated in English and Spanish.”

Lastra said he used a Cocopah language dictionary published in 1972 by The Autonomous University of Baja California as resource.

For accuracy, he also consulted with an elder from the Cocopah tribe, in San Luis Rio Colorado.  

Lastra said the book is not associated with the Cocopah Indian Tribe in the U.S. but he would like to work with them in the future.

"Los Que Llegaron Primero" is a multilingual coloring book that aims to help revive the Cocopah language.
Credit Stephanie Sanchez

The coloring book contains simple words in the Cocopah.
Credit Stephanie Sanchez

The coloring book contains the English and Spanish translations of words in Cocopah.
Credit Stephanie Sanchez