INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES AND LITERATURE PROGRAM
(Programa de Lenguas y Literatura Indígena)
Several of the Mexican indigenous languages are becoming extinct. Almost
fifteen languages will disappear in the next years if no action is taken
for their survival. In 1993, the Program of Languages and Indigenous Literature
was created with the purpose of attending to the demands of linguistic
development of indigenous populations.
at least 62 indigenous languages and a population of more than 12 millions
who represent about 12 percent of the national population.
As a result of the recognition of the multiculturalism of the nation,
the program contributes to attend to the needs of a multilingual State.
Valuing indigenous languages allows native speakers to develop their own
language as well as their Spanish skills. The program responds to the
ancient demands of the indigenous population that were not constitutionally
· Promote the
use of indigenous languages in order to strengthen their presence and
to amplify their use in indigenous communities.
· Promote the understanding in the national society of the linguistic
diversity of the country and to encourage intercultural processes to enrich
· Contribute to the formation of a linguistic policy that takes
into account the diversity of living languages in the country.
Starting date, coverage
and target group
The program began
in March 16, 1993, in 25 states and the Federal District. It is targeted
towards children, youth, and adults (men and women) of the 62 indigenous
groups of the country.
The program has been
developed in three stages:
First stage: In the period of 1993-95, the program fostered and strengthened
processes of organization. Several academies and indigenous organizations
at the regional and national level were created in this stage. In the
diffusion area, publications of bilingual collections were produced, entitled,
"Letras Indígenas Contemporáneas" and "Lenguas
de México" targeted to indigenous and non-indigenous population.
The Nezahualcóyotl award of Literature in Indigenous Languages
was created for promoting and recognizing the literature production of
new indigenous writers. Continental meetings of writers in indigenous
languages started to take place in collaboration with embassies, indigenous
organizations, writers and universities of other American countries.
Second stage: From 1995 to 2000, the program was consolidated at the national
level and strategies of training, promotion and diffusion of indigenous
languages and literature were defined. There was a stronger collaboration
with academies, indigenous organizations, cultural and educational departments,
and some institutions of higher education. Priority was given to indigenous
languages that were in danger of extinction. The training of teachers
or cultural promoters was strengthened throughout workshops and courses
in indigenous literacy and linguistic development.
Current stage: Throughout some inter-institutional actions, there is an
existent proposal for creating a communication campaign in favor of the
Mexican languages and cultures. This campaign also has the objective of
generating processes of linguistic planning, fostering reading programs,
and promoting, among native speakers, the use of their oral and written
area of the General Directorate of Popular and Indigenous Cultures is
in charge of establishing mechanisms for delivering, consulting and give
continuity to the application of resources. The Program has on average
a total budget of $400,000.00 (Mexican pesos).
Strengths of the Program
· The Program
has been reformulated based on the new legal order established in the
Mexican Constitution, the National Program of Culture 2001-2006 principles,
and the policy of the National Program for the Development of Indigenous
Populations 2001-2006 of the Federal Executive.
· The multicultural notion has special relevance within the frame
of seeking alternatives that allow indigenous communities to overcome
the isolation, discrimination, and conditions of extreme poverty in which
· The oral
and written use of indigenous languages is promoting their revitalization,
and increasing functions that were limited to the domestic use. There
are consented alphabets in the language of the 62 indigenous groups, which
allow native speakers to create proposals for creating new materials,
bilingual instruction, literature and research on the languages' grammar.
· The publications in indigenous languages have diversified the
editorial supply in the country because they are written in indigenous
languages as well as in Spanish.
· The opening that indigenous languages are beginning to have in
public spaces, in the media, and universities is an indicator of the generation
of social awareness about the value of indigenous languages.
· Nezahualcóyotl award of Literature in Indigenous Languages
has promoted the recognition of the quality of indigenous writers' literary
· The recognition
of a multilingual nation and the definition of a linguistic policy that
promoted a linguistic diversity.
· The access of the non-indigenous peoples to know indigenous languages
and indigenous peoples to know Spanish in order to create awareness of
the value of indigenous languages and to develop processes of bilingualism.
· The presence of the Mexican languages in the public sphere.
· The formation of a culture based on the respect, exchange and
· The implementation of a bilingual education that considers indigenous
languages and their culture.
its potential transference to other contexts
The Program has promoted
the exchange of experiences, work and ideas among several indigenous writers
from Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Venezuela
and the United States throughout the Continental meetings. The first meeting
took place in México in 1994, in Chile in 1996, Venezuela in 1997,
and Nicaragua in 1999, and again in México in 2001.
In order to transfer the program to other contexts, we suggest considering
· The participation of indigenous professionals for the design
and implementation of the program.
· It should be an institutional program with possibilities of attending
the information needs of institutions and national and international organisms.