Spoken for centuries in Mexico, Spanish is not an official language

06/01/2021

Even though Mexico is the country with the largest number of Spanish speakers, it is not the official language, because there is no basis in the Constitution to consider it as such.

In early December, the Chamber of Deputies approved a constitutional reform to consider Spanish and indigenous languages as national languages. However, in order for this to be effective, it is necessary to add to Article 4 of the Constitution that "the Spanish language is the official language of Mexico," stated Deputy Manuel Huerta Martínez (PT) in an initiative.

The lack of a specific definition of the language in the country "has as a result that Mexico lacks an official language," even after data from the National Survey of Demographic Dynamics 2018, of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, indicates that 93.4 percent of the total population in the country speaks Spanish, that is, a little more than 118 million.

Likewise, the initiative details that the National Institute of Indigenous Languages catalogs the linguistic diversity of indigenous peoples in Mexico with three categories: 11 linguistic families, 68 native languages, and 364 linguistic variants, of which about half are in the process of disappearing.

The legislator indicated that the omission of an official language has its origin in the first Constitution and subsists, and that in contrast to the majority of contemporary constitutional states, the Mexican Magna Carta does not define which is the official language of the State.

He stressed that despite the fact that Congress added to Article 2 of the Constitution that Spanish and indigenous languages are national languages, the lack of a constitutional definition of an official language prevents the federal government, states, and municipalities from being forced to adopt measures to protect and promote indigenous languages.

Huerta Martinez stated that the 2001 constitutional reform on indigenous rights omitted the State's responsibility to preserve languages, deprived them of their national character, and removed the definition provided in the Constitution itself that "the Mexican nation has a pluricultural composition originally based on its indigenous peoples. The law shall protect and promote the development of their languages, cultures

The legislator pointed out that, in these terms, the State's obligation to protect and promote vernacular languages was clear and, by eliminating it, made it the responsibility of the indigenous communities, a situation that can only be resolved with a new amendment that defines the national nature of languages and adopts the official language of the Mexican State.