Language attitudes and educational opportunities: Challenging a history of oppression and assimilation among Indigenous communities in Mexico (PDF)
The cultural, economic and sociolinguistic trajectory of native communities in Mexico can be explained by some aspects of acculturation theory, in which ethnolinguistic vitality is an essential predictive component. I argue that at least in the first two or even three centuries of contact successful integration strategies seem to have co-existed with separation. Many Indigenous communities demonstrated considerable resilience and ethnolinguistic vitality during the colonial period, but the situation has changed drastically in modern times. This significant transformation came in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when integrational and separationist forms of existence gradually gave way to assimilation and marginalization. These changes were of course part of complex social, political and economic processes, especially the dispossession of corporate Indigenous land that has led to the undermining of native economies and their sustainable ways of subsistence. Also racism and negative language ideologies have been widely internalized by members of Indigenous communities. The perceived low economic value of the heritage language versus Spanish and English is still supported both by the dynamics of economic and social relations in the communities and by the conditions imposed by the external job market and its mechanisms of social advancement. Cultural dispossession is probably most profound and difficult to reverse or counteract if the language of the community is lost. While diagnosing these adverse processes, this paper also discusses the opportunities for challenging economic marginalization and cultural dispossession of Indigenous groups, including both community-driven initiatives and collaborative projects embracing academic and Indigenous agents. Showing how language loss has been largely provoked by assimilationist educational policies, I also argue that reversing these negative processes can be achieved by collaborative educational strategies, the empowerment of speakers and the development of spaces for practicing Indigenous research, teaching and language activism.
Key words: Mexico, Indigenous people, Nahuatl, assimilation, language ideologies, Indigenous education, language revitalisation