(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.

Needs Addressed

México has 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 recognized.


· 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 the cultures.
· 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 languages.

Financing Resources

The administrative 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 they live.


· 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 production.


· 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 mutual enrichment.
· The implementation of a bilingual education that considers indigenous languages and their culture.

Recommendations regarding 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 following:
· 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.