Indigenous communities in Mexico must be respected and valued

There are people in the country who deny the existence of these peoples. Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, Puebla and Yucatan account for 61.09 percent of the total indigenous-speaking population.

Indigenous communities in Mexico must be respected and valued
Indigenous Mexican communities should be treated with respect and appreciation. Credit: UNAM

Although progress has been made in the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples, they face exclusion, denial of their cultures, forms of organization, and languages, among other expressions of social marginalization, according to Orlando Aragón Andrade, a researcher at the National School of Higher Education of UNAM's Morelia unit.

According to the United Nations (UN), there are currently approximately 476 million indigenous people living in 90 countries, representing just over five percent of the world's population. They are, however, among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, accounting for 15% of the poorest.

In Mexico, the most recent statistics from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (2010) indicate that the population of people aged 5 years of age or older who speak an indigenous language amounts to more than six million people, of which 50.9 percent are women and 49.1 percent are men.

It also indicates that the groups that speak indigenous languages are mainly established in the south, east, and southeast of the country: Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, Puebla, and Yucatan, entities that concentrate 61.09 percent of the total indigenous-speaking population.

The conditions they face vary according to contexts or regions. In Canada, for example, people own and have access to oil, which is not the case in most Latin America or Africa.

"We arrive at this anniversary with a situation that continues in exclusion, historical marginalization of their peoples, cultures, and forms of organization by national states, but which is complexified by the advance, the ever more present threat of extractive projects and megaprojects that continue to be promoted and spread throughout the world. Everywhere we find megaprojects that threaten not only the cultural identity of peoples but also their health, the safety of people, and their territory, "explains the researcher.

It's important to remember that the UN set the date in 1994 to honor the first meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, which took place in 1982.

Indigenous Mexican communities should be treated with dignity and respect.
Indigenous Mexican communities should be treated with dignity and respect. Credit: UNAM

Colonial inertia of the indigenous communities in Mexico

According to Aragón Andrade, "we are facing a situation that is not new, nor are we the same as a century ago, but in the end, it presents a series of contradictions between a series of initiatives, policies, and rights of the indigenous communities and peoples that have been recognized in different areas with a colonial logic and inertia since the foundation of the Latin American states, which the Mexican State has had at its heart."

There are several initiatives and triumphs that the indigenous communities have won and that are embodied in the Constitution. However, institutions and public policy often pale in the face of the interests of private individuals or foreign companies, which is why territories or the natural environment that have traditionally been preserved by the native people are often disposed of.

Historically, we have been shown "that within the Mexican State itself there are rights to rights, agendas to agendas, and policies to policies, and the one that favors transnational capital and the one that disfavors indigenous peoples always ends up prevailing," emphasizes the lawyer and historian.

Although it is common to talk about the inertia or colonial spirit of the Mexican State, which translates into forms of control, domination, and marginalization of indigenous peoples and communities, it must be recognized that these colonial practices are also reproduced by the populations.

This refers to education in families, in a way that excludes those who belong to indigenous communities, so that new generations can discriminate against them or make them invisible.

"What we can do is to change that mentality, obviously; there are people in the country who deny the existence of indigenous peoples. "It would be good to learn about our reality and immediate surroundings, realizing that we are a much more diverse and plural society, getting to know them, not prejudging them, and moving away from the more folklore ideas that are promoted by the government and transnational capital for tourists, and the communities are much more than that," asserts the researcher.

It is important to value the work in defense of uses and customs that indigenous communities, in general, carry out daily.

"Here, in Michoacán, I work with 14 or 15 indigenous communities that exercise autonomy and I am always surprised by their authorities, who are people who defend the culture of their communities, traditions, history, and are examples of life because they have decided to take the reins of their communities in contexts of violence, dispossession, and very complex situations and have had the courage and wisdom to move forward," highlights the researcher.