Culture

You Can Help Save Indigenous Languages From Extinction By Downloading One Of These 5 Apps

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For many of us, our ability to speak Spanish or Portuguese is a huge part of our Latinidad. But with millions of people speaking Indigenous languages in Latin America, we know this is far from the truth. Spanish is, of course, one thing that unites most of Latin America together, but it’s a language that was imposed on us. It’s one reason some Mexican writers have rejected Spanish to write in Indigenous languages. For those of us who are interested in learning Indigenous languages, technology has become a serious lifeline.

We already use apps for dating and social media to checking the weather or shopping, so why not use it to help us get in touch with our deeper identity?

Several apps have sprung over the last few years to help us learn the Indigenous languages of Latin America. If you’re looking to take on a new language, here are a few apps you should check out:

Náhuatl

Credit: Matthew Powell / Flickr

With an estimated 1.5 million speakers, Náhuatl is the most commonly spoken Indigenous language in Mexico. Yet despite its prevalence in rural Mexico, there are still few courses or resources available for learning it.

The digital app “Vamos a Aprender Náhuatl” (Let’s Learn Náhuatl) offers learners the chance to approach the language as spoken in the town of Acatlán, in the southern state of Guerrero. In a self-taught manner, you can learn the numbers, greetings, animals, body parts, fruits, plants, and some verbs. The app – which is in Spanish and Náhuatl – also features quizzes to help users retain their lessons.

Mixtec

Credit: @fonsecahendris / Instagram

Kernaia has also developed an app for learning Mixtec, a branch of Indigenous languages spoken by more than half a million people. The app allows learners to navigate through 20 language lessons which teach greetings, numbers, and colors. The lessons are all set in the Santa Inés de Zaragoza community in the southern state of Oaxaca, and the app teaches people about the culture and traditions of the community.

Purépecha

Credit: VillageBosque / Instagram

The Kernaia project says that its mission is to create “an ecosystem of digital content for Indigenous languages.” To move toward this goal, the organization has created a similar app for Purépecha, a language spoken by nearly 200,000 people in the western state of Michoacán.

After the passing of Mexico’s Indigenous language law in 2000, languages including Purépecha were given official status equal with Spanish in the areas where it is spoken. Digital learning aids such as those offered by Kernaia are vital to heightening awareness of both the Purépecha language and the culture of the Purépecha people, who often experience poverty and marginalization.

As well as teaching words related to daily activities, Kernaia’s website says that the app offers a journey into “the space where they take place: the family, the community, the kitchen, the field, the celebrations, and other elements that represent the town’s identity and enrich our cultural diversity.”

Habla Quechua

Credit: ilovelanguages / Youtube

Quechua’s one of the most widely spoken indigenous language in the Americas. PromPerú developed the Habla Quechua app “with the aim of inspiring Peruvian citizens and foreigners to use and take an interest in the Quechua language.” The app – which is available to English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish speakers – features quizzes and a live translator feature.

Duolingo

DuoLingo offers courses in more than 20 languages, including the Jopará dialect of Guaraní, which is spoken in Paraguay. There is also a course for Navajo that is currently in Beta. The app offers quizzes and immediate grading.

So what do you think? Are there any Indigenous languages you’d like to learn that don’t have an app yet?

Kay Lopez Developed Instagram Gifs To Better Represent All Kinds Of Latinas

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Kay Lopez Developed Instagram Gifs To Better Represent All Kinds Of Latinas

Latinx representation in media is limited but leaders like Kay Lopez,a  34-year-old social strategist and content developer, are working to change that. For her latest project she developed 100 gifs to better represent Latinas beyond those normally attached to brands or stereotypes. 

“I wasn’t finding any gifs that really spoke to how I felt Latinas should be describing their power and self. The few gifs that I did come across were tied to alcohol brands and soccer teams. It was hard to understand why these gifs didn’t already exist,” she told FIERCE by mitú. 

Her background is in social strategy and content development, and she used her skills in graphic design to create the gifs “that spoke to the Latina community.”

She also tapped into the community she developed through the Instagram account, Latinas Poderosas which has more than 30k followers. 

The ethos behind the online community is to uplift Latinas and claim space in the digital world while promoting positivity. 

“Empowering our community is the foundation of Latinas Poderosas. My goal has always been to empower Latinas by showcasing both past and present Latinas who have created positive impact. Women who have not settled, women who have pushed boundaries and who have made their dreams possible despite obstacles.” she said.

This was the same intention she brought to the project so she reached out to the members of this community to find out what it was they wanted, opening up her DMs to suggestions and requests.

She initially drafted several empowering terms that spoke to Latinx in a positive way.

Eventually, her efforts evolved into working to ensure she represented the diversity within the Latinx community. 

She asks for two to three words max per phrase and is continuously looking for popular colloquial adjectives throughout Latin America  to “truly capture the diversity of our community.” 

“I wanted terms that were not focused on one country, I wanted to pull and showcase the diversity in our phrases and the diversity of the Spanish language. Today you’ll find gifs that read ‘cachimbona’ a phrase used in El Salvador, ‘La Llorona’ which ties to Mexican [folklore], ‘Ya Tu Sabes’  used in the Dominican Republic, and, one of my favorites, ‘Blaxican’ created by special request. The more terms we have the more impact we have!”

Since launching earlier this month the gifs have already generated more than 20 million views and counting and so far the most popular terms are “Prima Hermana,” “Mija,” and “Bebecita.” 

Lopez, who is a first-generation Mexican-American Houston transplant living in Los Angeles, is constantly working to make the gifs more inclusive and representative. 

According to one report, nearly 40 million Instagram users over the age of 18 were Latinx in 2014 and yet, according to Lopez, the only gifs available to Latinx were primarily stereotypes. 

“I want to refrain from Latinx stereotypes as much as possible, words like ‘caliente,’ ‘chancla’ ‘tacos’ – with the exception of  ‘tacos before vatos’ which was a request from a fan – and I definitely want to stay away from words that insult our community or other communities. I want the gifs to showcase the diversity of our language, our culture, and the vibrancy of our roots.”

Diversity in a community that includes nearly a quarter of U.S. Latinos who self-identify as Afro-Latino among the millions of immigrants who come from 33 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Her efforts are undoubtedly making the social sphere all the more colorful.

This addition to the digital landscape means that when someone searches “Latina,” “latinas poderosa” or “latinx” in the gif section on Instagram or Snapchat, they’ll be flooded with colorful words including “reina,” “poderosa,” and “diosa.”

Switching up the narrative is ultimately the goal, it’s empowerment at people’s fingertips when the terminology associated with the Latinx community, specifically women, goes from sexual or provocative (the common associations with Latinas) to diverse and uplifting. 

“I want Latinas to know that they matter, that they’re seen and heard. I want to encourage our community to create. If you find our narrative missing don’t just shrug it off, do something and create it because no one else will create it for us.” 

The Mexican Government Just Gave Louis Vuitton The Greatest Drag After Noticing The Brand Stole From Indigenous Women

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The Mexican Government Just Gave Louis Vuitton The Greatest Drag After Noticing The Brand Stole From Indigenous Women

Fashion brand Louis Vuitton is under scrutiny from the Mexican government after allegedly using indigenous designs on the cover of a chair that’s being sold for over $18,000. The Mexican government called them out for cultural appropriation and for taking the designs from an indigenous community. 

This comes only a couple weeks after the Mexican government called out fashion designer Carolina Herrera for appropriation as well.

According to the Daily Mail, “Culture Minister Alejandra Fausto sent a letter dated July 5 questioning Louis Vuitton’s use of a traditional Mexican pattern in the design of a chair that retails for $18,200.” Fausto states in the letter than the artistic pattern belong to the indigenous community of Tenango de Doria. 

“Each piece is unique and unrepeatable,” Fausto writes in the letter. “And at the same time, it is a result of the continuity of the work of many generations who transmit knowledge, skills, and creativity. 

On its website, however, Louis Vuitton writes, “LV partnered with award-winning designer duo Raw Edges, Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay, to create this Dolls limited-edition chair. Sculptural in design, this avant-garde piece marries a deep green base and seat with a contrasting tropical-print shell.” 

Tropical print? Sounds suspect. 

“The designers took their inspiration from traditional crafts from all over the globe and the House’s rich travel heritage,” the statement on their website goes on to say.  

Days after receiving the letter from Fausto, El Universal reported that Louis Vuitton insists the brand was actually collaborating with Mexican artisans––despite that piece of information not being explicit on their website. The brand tells El Universal that they’re “currently in a relationship with artisans of Tenango de Doria in the state of Hidalgo, with the perspective of collaborating together to produce this collection.” They did not provide any further details. 

Although Louis Vuitton hasn’t yet addressed the letter, they did remove the chair in question from the website. All the other products from the partnership with Raw Edges are still available for purchase.

The chair in question is still on the Raw Edges Instagram account. A quick scroll through the comments and one will find many users calling them out for stealing these designs from indigenous communities from Mexico. 

Earlier in June, Mexico News Daily reported that Fausto reached out Carolina Herrera accusing the fashion designer of using designs of indigenous communities in three states.

Fausto accused Carolina Herrera of liberally copying several articles of clothing that were featured in Herrera’s 2020 collection–not giving credit where it was due. 

“This pattern comes from the community of Tenango de Doria in Hidalgo. Contained in these patterns is the very history of the community, and each element has special personal, familial, and communal significance,” wrote Fausto in the letter sent to Herrera. 

Reuters also reported that “Mexico’s ruling leftist National Regeneration Movement has been planning legislation to protect indigenous communities from plagiarism and having their work used by others without receiving fair compensation.”  

According to a new report from the Centre for International Governance Innovation, “Traditional cultural expressions ‘are undeniably’ forms of intellectual property but are largely excluded from existing protections offered by the World Intellectual Property Organization.”

This is all part of a larger movement from organizations working toward tougher intellectual property laws in order to protect indigenous communities from cultural appropriation. During a time when fast fashion is so prevalent in the fashion industry and when high profile designers have the means to appropriate from other cultures without facing repercussions, it’s important to protect indigenous communities and artists from having their work stolen, repurposed, and sold for more money without seeing any of that profit.

According to Mexico News Daily, Susan Harp who heads the Culture Commission in Congress, said, “These communities are asking for respect, they’re not [necessarily] asking for money. They want designers to come to them and ask for their permission.” 

The letter that Fausto sent to Louis Vuitton read, “We feel obliged to ask, in a respectful manner, if for the elaboration of the chair you mentioned you sought and, in this case, worked together with the community and its artists.” 

This isn’t the first time that major designers, fashion designers, and clothing lines have been found copying and appropriating indigenous Mexican designs.

For example, Zara, Mango, Etoile, Michael Kors, and Isabel Marant have all been criticized for this in the past. 

While high profile fashion designers have a history of appropriating and incorporating indigenous patterns and designs into their collections and products, it’s important and necessary that cultural institutions from other counties are calling these brands out in efforts to stop this from happening again. 

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