Andre Cramblit andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Mon Aug 22 18:45:44 UTC 2005

Nahuatl language, customs disappearing in Jalisco

The indigenous group's parents are no longer teaching children their
native tongue to keep them from facing discrimination.

August 21, 2005 

GUADALAJARA The language and culture of the indigenous Nahuatl
communities in Jalisco state are rapidly disappearing due to
discrimination and emigration spurred by poverty, state authorities
declared this week.

"I believe that there are efforts by the Nahuas in Jalisco to recuperate
but I feel that they are losing," said Mario Alberto Reyna Bustos,
president of the Commission on Indigenous Affairs in the Jalisco
legislature during a recent interview.

Statistics from the National Commission for the Development of
Indigenous People confirm his suspicion. Up until 2000, there were
22,936 Nahuas living in six Jalisco communities: Cuautitlán de García
Barragán, Tuxpan, Zapotitlán de Vadillo, Villa Purificación,
Tuxcacuesco and Tolimán.

Estimates from the Indigenous Affairs department of the state's attorney
general's office show that less than 10,000 remain.

The Jalisco Nahuas are the state's second-most populous indigenous group
after the Huichols, and they are the state's most marginalized
community, according to Reyna Bustos.

"In the south of the state they do not have the same concepts of
community that are found in other indigenous communities in the nation.
This makes them more vulnerable and isolates them," he said.

He said the difficulties have spurred large-scale migration to other

Antonio Vázquez Romero, a justice official for indigenous affairs in
Tuxpan, said more people have departed from his jurisdiction than any
other of the Nahuas' chief communities.

"We all know it, there's no basic services, no work, no education," he

Discrimination was driving the exodus, he added.

"(The people in Tuxpan) see indigenous people as ignorant, human waste,
something horrible," he said. "We have to understand that if there is
some backwardness to these communities it has to do with the fact that
there simply have never been the same opportunities here that we see in
other parts of the nation. For many years indigenous people were left in
a state of abandonment."

He added that currently only older adults and a few who strive to
preserve the culture speak Nahuatl, their mother tongue.

"Now only the older folks speak Nahuatl. The language is being lost ...
because parents don't want their children to suffer (discrimination) as
they did," he said.

Vázquez Romero, himself a Nahua, remembers bitterly his welcome to
Jalisco's capital.

"The first few times when I went to Guadalajara, I went dressed in
traditional clothes, and people would ask me where I was performing at
... where was the circus going to be, ridiculing me," he said. His tale
is echoed by Juan José Partida, a young Nahuatl who left Cuautitlán de
García Barragán to find work in Guadalajara selling artisanal works in
the markets of Tonalá.

He and his wife, Josefina, no longer speak Nahuatl and have not taught
their 12-year-old son Juan José Partida González the language.

"People can't eat and live (by speaking Nahuatl), and it is better that
children are raised to speak as the others, so that no one makes fun of
them," said Partida, as he recalled how his mother was humiliated when
she came to the city because she did not speak Spanish.

"I know I am Nahuatl, but I really don't know much about it," says
Partida's son Juan José, who spends Thursdays and Sundays tending his
father's stand at the artisan market.

For two years now, he has not attended school because "he has to work."
He says it is not a good thing to talk about being indigenous: "They
call you an indio (indian), it's just better not to say anything at

Nahuatl is Mexico's most widely used indigenous tongue, with an
estimated 1.5 million speakers. The majority live in states such as
Morelos, Puebla, Guerrero, Veracruz and the State of Mexico.

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