Culture

Mexico Just Announced It Will Offer Legal Representation In More Than 100 Indigenous Languages And It’s A Huge Victory

Let’s finish this convoluted year with a piece of information that gives us at least a bit of optimism shall we?

The Mexican government, led by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has gotten many things wrong according to its critics. However, one area in which it has delivered on its promises is on a different, more inclusive approach to indigenous communities that recognizes the centuries-long dispossession of which they have been subject. Plus, the fact that their culture has been crushed by the weight of mestizo, monolingual social structures.

States such as Yucatan are making good progress by, for example, making Mayan language compulsory in schools, which is a recognition that the original owners of a land that was never ceded still comprise an important part of the state’s identity. 

Even though since colonial times Spanish became the official language of what is now the Mexican territory, the country houses hundreds of indigenous languages and dialects.

Credit: Roma / Netflix

People who speak indigenous languages in addition to Spanish should be celebrated! After all, how many of us can claim to be fully bilingual? But this is not the case. As Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma showed, languages like mixteco and zapoteco, which originated in Oaxaca, are looked down upon by the white and mestizo elites.

This is a form or racism that not only embodies a form of self-hatred (most Mexicans have European and indigenous blood) but also plants the seeds of marginalization. The fact that indigenous languages are looked down upon does not only involve issues of cultural identity, but increases the social divide in more areas. 

But Mexican society experiences an endemic racism that basically punishes those who speak their mother tongue.

Credit: The Yucatan Times

Up to one million Mexicans speak only an indigenous language and even though many more are functional in Spanish, not being fully fluent causes socioeconomic gaps to be further exacerbated in a country defined by inequality.

For example, the job market for people with indigenous languages as a first tongue is limited, particularly in professional sectors. Spanish is the lingua franca and this means that those who do not master it are at a disadvantage. What is even worse, indigenous populations have historically been subject to abuse by the judicial system. If they are not fluent in Spanish, the accused are likely to be convicted as legal representation is compromised by miscommunication or totally non-existent. 

AMLO started his presidency with huge expectations on what he would do for Indigenous Mexicans.

When AMLO took power there was skepticism about how much he would do for indigenous populations after so many campaign promises.

As USN argued back then: “The plight of Mexico’s more than 12 million indigenous people, who often face inequality, injustice and persecution, has been thrown in the spotlight by the election of leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in July. Lopez Obrador, who campaigned on a platform of “first the poor,” has held ceremonies with indigenous leaders and vowed to bring meaningful change to these impoverished rural communities. But as the President turns his focus to major infrastructure projects, there are fears that all the rituals and rhetoric may end in broken promises once again.”

However, there are positive signs that lead us to believe that this sexenio (how a Mexican presidency is known, as it lasts for six years) will be different.

Now the government is providing legal representation in 103 indigenous languages, and this is a great step towards reconciliation.

Credit: South World

The Instituto Federal de Defensoría Pública (IFDP; Federal Institute for Public Defense) has significantly increased the number of indigenous languages in which it can offer legal advise and defense. The number has increased from 39 to 103, which is a huge step towards fairer trials for indigenous individuals.

Among the languages that are included in the list we can find maya, mixe, mixteco, mazateco, náhuatl, otomí, purépecha, tarahumara, huasteco, huichol, tepehuano, totonaco, triqui, tzeltal, yaqui, amuzgo, chatino, chinanteco, chol, chontal, cora, cuicateco, zapoteco and zoque. The states with the largest concentration of these languages are Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Tabasco, Nayarit, Jalisco, San Luis Potosí, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Sonora, Sinaloa, Querétaro, Estado de México, Chihuahua, Michoacán, Durango  and Puebla.

The service is therefore not concentrated in a single region, as is the case with several federal programs, but is spread out across Mexico’s geography. Added to this, the number of staff who is fluent in indigenous tongues was increased almost twofold, from 51 to 90. This legal personnel is comprised of lawyers who grew up with an indigenous tongue and understanding the indigenous worldview, which makes them a great asset during trials. Further, they have been granted permission to act as interpreters if there are no other speakers available. 

The goal, however, is to reach the 364 languages spoken in Mexico.

Credit: Mexico Desconocido

According to government officials the new appointments are only the first step and the final objective is to cover all the languages spoken in Mexico. 

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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Mexico Plunges 23 Places On The World Happiness Report As The Country Struggles To Bounce Back

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Mexico Plunges 23 Places On The World Happiness Report As The Country Struggles To Bounce Back

When it comes to international happiness rankings, Mexico has long done well in many measurements. In fact, in 2019, Mexico placed number 23 beating out every other Latin American country except for Costa Rica. But in 2020, things looks a lot different as the country slipped 23 spots on the list. What does this mean for Mexico and its residents? 

Mexico slips 23 spots on the World Happiness Report thanks to a variety of compelling factors.

Mexico plummeted 23 places to the 46th happiest nation in the world, according to the 2020 happiness rankings in the latest edition of the United Nations’ World Happiness Report. The coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on Mexicans’ happiness in 2020, the new report indicates.

“Covid-19 has shaken, taken, and reshaped lives everywhere,” the report noted, and that is especially true in Mexico, where almost 200,000 people have lost their lives to the disease and millions lost their jobs last year as the economy recorded its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Based on results of the Gallup World Poll as well as an analysis of data related to the happiness impacts of Covid-19, Mexico’s score on the World Happiness Report index was 5.96, an 8% slump compared to its average score between 2017 and 2019 when its average ranking was 23rd.

The only nations that dropped more than Mexico – the worst country to be in during the pandemic, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg news agency – were El Salvador, the Philippines and Benin.

Mexico has struggled especially hard against the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Since the pandemic started, Mexico has fared far worse than many other countries across Latin America. Today, there are reports that Mexico has been undercounting and underreporting both the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths. Given this reality, the country is 2nd worst in the world when it comes to number of suspected deaths, with more than 200,000 people dead. 

Could the happiness level have an impact on this year’s elections?

Given that Mexico’s decline in the rankings appears related to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic here, one might assume that the popularity of the federal government – which has been widely condemned for its management of the crisis from both a health and economic perspective – would take a hit.

But a poll published earlier this month found that 55.9% of respondents approved of President López Obrador’s management of the pandemic and 44% indicated that they would vote for the ruling Morena party if the election for federal deputies were held the day they were polled.

Support for Morena, which apparently got a shot in the arm from the national vaccination program even as it proceeded slowly, was more than four times higher than that for the two main opposition parties, the PAN and the PRI.

Still, Mexico’s slide in the happiness rankings could give López Obrador – who has claimed that ordinary Mexicans are happier with him in office – pause for thought.

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