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The Colonization: A Linguistic Wound

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

It is up to us to learn and spread the voices of native people in order for the heritage of the land to not be forgotten and for the open wounds of colonization start closing.

Newspaper Collage by Taylor Houlihan

201 years have passed since the independence of Mexico, and yet as much as we wish to distance ourselves from the Spanish ("the Spanish conquered us"), we have to accept that the main modern Mexican culture is a combination of this European and Mesoamerican culture, with the addition of various African and Asian cultures.

We can see the effects that this conquest had, with the simple fact that this text was originally written in Spanish and not Tarasco or Zapotec. This tendency to write things only in Spanish, instead of the other 63 languages ​​that this country has, leads to the fact that “only 1 out of every 10 adolescents who only speaks an indigenous language and not Spanish attends school in Mexico” (UNICEF).

Not only that, but these languages ​​within our land are not considered worthy of study. After one is considered fluent in Spanish, they are guided in the direction of learning English (although considering the state of the world and the position of the language in it, it is understandable). However, after you finish your studies in English, trilingual schools (all of which are private) decide the next language you need to learn is French, which the common Mexican will probably never use unless they travel abroad.

Something Spanish, English and French have in common is that they are all of European origin. It is in my opinion that we continue as our ancestors did in the times of European occupation, valuing the Caucasian and denigrating the Indigenous, as well as the African.

If you are a speaker of a language that most people cannot understand, you have limited options to convey your idea.

And let's say you decide to learn the Spanish language, and finish your classes being considered "fluent". However, if you have an accent, or do not pronounce certain words “correctly” or occasionally mistake the pronoun “él” for “ella, people will think of you as uncultured and see you as “less intelligent”.

This idea of ​​assimilation is also harmful because it robs people of their cultural ties. “For Indigenous peoples, languages ​​are not only symbols of identity and belonging to a group, but also vehicles for ethical values. They constitute the fabric of the knowledge systems through which these peoples form a whole with the land and are crucial for their survival. The future of their young people depends on them. - Minnie Degawan

However, certain solutions are already being implemented: UNICEF, in collaboration with the SEP (secretary of public education), joined forces "to include the teaching of classes in indigenous languages ​​as the first language and in Spanish as the second, within the New Educational Model." In addition, UNICEF has developed "teaching programs in Indigenous languages ​​in collaboration with the SEP that will benefit more than 23,000 students in Chihuahua, Guerrero and the State of Mexico."

In the same way, Ayuda en Acción has worked “since 1999 together with the Patronato Pro-Educación Mexicano to guarantee bilingual education. Thanks to this, we have achieved that nearly 1,050 young people have been able to complete their secondary, baccalaureate and higher education studies both in Spanish and in their mother tongue, Tzeltal.”

Individually, if you want to learn Nahuatlatolli, there is an online page that is designed as a basic course for both spanish and english speakers, created with the help of native ones:

To conclude, I want to say that the action of conserving these languages ​​and helping to heal the wounds of colonization is in us. There are several online resources with which we can learn. There are several people who are sharing their mother tongues with the rest of the world so that they are not lost. It is up to us to learn and spread the voices of native people in order for the heritage of the land to not be forgotten and for the open wounds of colonization start closing.


Ari Ochoa Petzold is a writer in process that likes dancing to old music and history. One of their goals in mind is to bring to the world stories about the human condition told through the intersectionality of being queer and latine. Find more of xyr work in the Sea Glass Magazine, Graveyard Zine, #Enbylife, Hooligan Mag and on Instagram at @Ari_gibberish.


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