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’s AMLO Wants To Launch New Social Media Network For Mexicans After Twitter Banned Trump

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Mexico’s AMLO Wants To Launch New Social Media Network For Mexicans After Twitter Banned Trump

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Love him or hate him, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has long called himself the voice of the people – and many Mexicans agree with him. That’s why his latest announcement against social media companies has many so worried.

In the wake of Twitter and Facebook’s (along with many other social media platforms) announcement that they would be restricting or banning Donald Trump from their platforms, the Mexican president expressed his contempt for the decisions. And his intention to create a Mexican social network that won’t be held to the standards from Silicon Valley.

Mexico’s AMLO moves to create a social media network for Mexicans outside of Silicon Valley’s control.

A week after his United States counterpart was kicked off Facebook and Twitter, President López Obrador floated the idea of creating a national social media network to avoid the possibility of Mexicans being censored.

Speaking at his daily news conference, AMLO instructed the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) and other government departments to look at the possibility of creating a state-owned social media site that would guarantee freedom of speech in Mexico.

“We care about freedom a lot, it’s an issue that’s going to be addressed by us,” he told reporters. He also added that Facebook and Twitter have become “global institutions of censorship,” sounding a lot like the alt-right terrorists that stormed the U.S. Capitol.

“To guarantee freedom, for freedom, so there’s no censorship in Mexico. We want a country without censorship. Mexico must be a country of freedom. This is a commitment we have,” he told reporters.

AMLO deeply criticized the moves by Twitter and Facebook to ban Trump from their platforms.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

AMLO – like Trump – is an avid user of social media to connect with his constituents. He’s also been known to spread falsehoods and boast about his achievements on the platforms – sound familiar?

So, it came as little surprise when he tore into social media companies for ‘censoring’ Donald Trump, saying that they have turned into “global institutions of censorship” and are carrying out a “holy inquisition.”

Nobody has the right to silence citizens even if their views are unpopular, López Obrador said. Even if the words used by Trump provoked a violent attack against his own government.

“Since they took these decisions [to suspend Trump], the Statue of Liberty has been turning green with anger because it doesn’t want to become an empty symbol,” he quipped.

So what could a Mexican social media network be called?

The president’s proposal to create a national social media network triggered chatter about what such a site would or should be called. One Twitter user suggested Facemex or Twitmex, apparently taking his inspiration from the state oil company Pemex.

The newspaper Milenio came up with three alternative names and logos for uniquely Mexican sites, suggesting that a Mexican version of Facebook could be called Facebookóatl (inspired by the Aztec feathered-serpent god Quetzalcóatl), Twitter could become Twitterlopochtli (a riff on the name of Aztec war, sun and human deity Huitzilopochtli) and Instagram could become Instagratlán (tlán, which in the Náhuatl language means place near an abundance of something – deer, for example, in the case of Mazatlán – is a common suffix in Mexican place names.)

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At 78-Years-Old, This Oaxacan Woman Learned To Read And Write And Even Authored An Award-Winning New Book

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At 78-Years-Old, This Oaxacan Woman Learned To Read And Write And Even Authored An Award-Winning New Book

Jorge Fernandez / Getty Images

It’s never too late to follow your dreams. It may sound cliche but one Indigenous woman from the Mexican state of Oaxaca is showing just how true that sentiment really is.

Although growing up knowing how to speak her native language of Náhuatl, she was never able to read or write it – let alone Spanish. Now after years of studying and being too embarrassed to attend classes, this 78-year-old woman can say that she achieved her dream and is now an award-winning author.

Despite being illiterate for years, Justina Rojas has finally finished primary school.

Justina Rojas Flores, a resident of the Oaxacan community of San Miguel Espejo, learned to read and write at 76. She remembers that at first she was embarrassed to attend her classes, but with the support of her teachers sh was motivated to learn the alphabet and words and communication.

In fact, she became so motivated that she’s recently authored a handmade book that earned her a national award. She recently told El Sol de Puebla, that “I was already cracking under pressure because I was cheating a lot, but the teachers told me ‘yes you can, Justina’, so I continued taking classes and it was thanks to them that I learned. After two years, I wrote La Mazorca, which is dedicated to the community of San Miguel Espejo.”

In her Indigenous language of Náhuatl, Rojas shared the history of La Mazorca, which emphasizes the value of appreciating all things – especially that which the land gives us.

“I beg you, if you see me lying on the ground, pick me up, don’t step on me. Just as you take care of me, I will take care of you,” is part of the story in the book that was awarded in 2019 by the State Institute for Adult Education (IEEA), an achievement with which Rojas feels accomplished, and with which motivates other people to enter the competition.

Rojas is proving that it’s never too late to learn something new.

Now, at 78-years-old, Rojas is able to celebrate her achievements. Though she admits that many in her community continue to doubt her real motivation. It’s common to hear people ask ‘Why do I learn if I’m old?’, ‘What use is it going to do?’, and ‘I’m on my way out so it doesn’t matter.’

But many of the people who ask these questions are the same people who don’t have the same opportunities, since they can’t read or write. According to figures from the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval) in Rojas’ community, there are around 2,267 inhabitants, and the majority are living in poverty, a factor that significantly influences educational access. Many, from a very young age, leave school to work to support their families and take jobs working in the fields or construction.

Finally, Rojas wants everyone to know that they should not limit themselves and to embrace knowledge regardless of age. “If you don’t know how to read and write, or if you know someone like that, I invite you to go where they teach, so that those who know more can share their knowledge with us.”

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