Mixe Author Yásnaya Aguilar Says Mexican Government Killed Off Indigenous Languages In Powerful Speech
Indigenous languages are often characterized as archaic, a connection to a past life, certainly not thriving cultures and communities that exist in a modern society. But this mentality isn’t just wrong; it’s also dangerous.
In a powerful speech delivered by Mixe author Yásnaya Aguilar to Mexico’s Congress last month, the writer explains that in the country, where indigenous languages are largely viewed as backwards, the state has killed off certain tongues.
“Our languages don’t die out, they’re killed off,” she said. “The Mexican state has erased them with its singular thinking, its [promotion of] a single culture, a single state. It was Mexico that took our Indigenous languages, [Mexico] erases and silences us. Even though the laws have changed, it continues to discriminate against us within its educational, health, and judicial systems.”
According to Aguilar, known for works like “Nosotros sin México: Naciones Indígenas y Autonomía” and “#Ayuujk: ¿Lenguas Útiles y Lenguas Inútiles,” by making Spanish, a language forced on the people of the region five centuries ago by Spain, the most important tongue of the nation, the state has created a culture where language discrimination can flourish.
“Languages are important, but their speakers are even more important,” she added. “Languages die because their speakers are subjected to discrimination and violence.”
For Aguilar, the country would thrive if it recognized the beauty and strengths, rather than challenges, that come with a multicultural society.
“Being Mexican is a legal status, it’s not a cultural status,” she added.
Watch Aguilar’s thoughtful speech in its entirety in the video above.