Nota: Este contenido tiene una versión original en español

In Puebla, one in ten citizens over three years old speaks an indigenous language, according to data from the National Institute of Geography and Statistics (INEGI), positioning itself in one of the states with the most speakers in the country.

According to statistical data, 68 indigenous languages ​​have been identified in Mexico, although each one has many different dialects that are variation in writings or pronunciations.

In an interview with Poblanerí, Angelica Ortiz Barroso, director of the Degree in Languages, Teaching and Cultural Diversity at the Universidad Popular Autonoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP), mentioned that there are seven most used languages ​​in Puebla:

  • Nahuatl
  • Totonaco
  • Mazateco
  • Mixteco
  • Popoloca
  • Otomi
  • Tepehua

The Nahuatl language and its variants are the most widely spoken in Puebla with 450,000 speakers.

However, despite the fact that Puebla is the eighth state with the highest number of speakers, the percentage is going down, since ten years ago, almost 2 percent of speakers were lost, according to INEGI.

In other words, while in the 2010 Census, 11.5 percent of Puebla's population said they spoke an indigenous language, by 2020, only 9.9 percent of the population said they spoke one of the indigenous languages ​​of Mexico.

Contrary to popular belief, indigenous languages ​​aren't only used in towns in the Sierra Puebla, since in San Miguel Canoa, one of the auxiliary boards of Puebla capital, 75 percent of its citizens speak an indigenous language, according to Floriberto Gallardo Ortiz, a Nahuatl teacher at UPAEP.

Read more: Multicultural Puebla on the Day of Indigenous Languages

Another town in Puebla where indigenous languages ​​are more widely used than Spanish is San Miguel Tzinacapan, a community in the municipality of Cuetzalan in which a variant of Nahuatl is spoken.

The same thing happens in Eloxochitlan town, in the south area of the state, where its citizens mainly use Nahuatl, although the official language is Spanish, according to Dr. Elizabeth Buenabad.

Actions to preserve languages

In Mexico there is the National Institute of Indigenous Languages ​​(INALI), which is in charge of preserving, strengthening and developing the indigenous languages ​​spoken in the country.

Among its activities are: promoting the use of these languages, preserving them, developing them and respecting the linguistic rights provided in the General Law on the Linguistic Rights of Indigenous People.

In addition, at state level, there is the Poblano Institute of Indigenous People (IPPI), which acts as an evaluation center, in which certifications are given to people who fit the requirements to be translators of an indigenous language.

However, the professor Ortiz Barroso believes that the actions have been limited to create dissemination material, but to prevent a language from disappearing, facilities must be provided for those who speak it:

Actually, a language grows and doesn't die when it is used. Within the communities, official services must be provided in which people aren't forced to use Spanish, so that they themselves see the importance of continuing to use their language and teach it to the next generations,” he says.

Since 1999, UNESCO has celebrated International Mother Language Day on February 21st, a date to celebrate, promote cultural and linguistic diversity and, promote tolerance and respect.

What should the language be called?

For many years, all indigenous languages ​​were considered dialects in Mexico, popularly known as "indigenous languages" or "native languages".

In an interview with Poblanerías, Dr. Elizabeth Buenabad, Academic Secretary of the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities of the Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla (BUAP), pointed out that the terms currently used don't take into account the speakers of these languages. and they are arbitrarily coined from the academy:

It must be a self-denomination, based on what each ethnic group or each community decides to assume as its own identity. This is something they have the right to decide on. Concepts such as “dialects” or “mother tongues” obey how academics have defined them based on politics and educational paradigms”, she says.

Mexico has eleven linguistic families, which the ones with the greatest coverage are:

  • Oto-mange
  • Maya
  • Yuto Nahua

Buenabad mentions that, due to the large number of people with different traditions, uses and experiences, it is difficult to determine a term that correctly encompasses all the “mother tongues”.

Translated by: Luba Michelle García Vega