The British Museum Presents a Soundscape Recorded in the Mixteca

The BritishMuseum's Pájaros de Tierra exhibition depicts the sounds recorded at Mixteca (between the borders of Puebla and Oaxaca) to understand how the "Ñuu-savi" people were at the time.

The British Museum Presents a Soundscape Recorded in the Mixteca
University student will take native languages to The British Museum. Photo by Matthieu Gouiffes / Unsplash

Nadia Lopez Garcia, a graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (FFyL) of the UNAM -along with other Mexican creators- received an invitation from The British Museum to mount this year's exhibition "Pájaros de Tierra", a soundscape recorded in the Mixteca (border between the states of Puebla and Oaxaca), which will address how the "Ñuu-savi" people looked at the time.

It is a work in charge of a collective composed, among others, by the Yodoquinsi Group that creates music with pre-Hispanic instruments; it will be presented in the Great Russell Street property, specified the poet and National Youth Award 2018.

"The museum is very interested in our languages, wants to know them, wants to know how they are heard. It gives me great joy that this country, so rigorous, so focused on certain research topics, is wondering how many living languages there are in Mexico. But does anyone read Mixtec there, we don't know, so what if they do," she said.

UNAM gives people like me, who are not from a professional family, with sufficient economic resources, who come from an indigenous population 14 hours away from Mexico City, the possibility to say: "I want to be educated, I want to study", for me UNAM was, is and will be a great dream that has been consolidated.

The graduate in Pedagogy from the FFyL, who recently won the XVI Mesoamerican Poetry Prize "Luis Cardoza y Aragón" 2021 through the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Guatemala, the Mexican Embassy in that nation, and the Fondo de Cultura Económica, also referred to the preservation of native languages in Mexico:

Any institution that has to do with the support and strengthening of native languages and peoples should not disappear, such as INALI (National Institute of Indigenous Languages). On the contrary, it should be strengthened. It is not enough for one instance to be in charge of the 68 languages, it has to be a cross-cutting issue.

"Something that INALI has achieved is that several languages are standardized in their writing and it is very important because most of the people walk in an oral memory. So knowledge, when a speaker dies, dies with it, but with the written memory there can be continuity and support," she said.

For the specialist in Social Pedagogy from the University of Barcelona, something sad is that literature in Mexico is elitist. Four decades ago, space opened up for works written in native languages; the universe is vast in our country, but it is subdivided into those who write in Spanish and those who write in languages that are not so recognized or so visible, in my case Tu'un savi-Mixteco.

"I have tried to make a living from poetry, from writing, from workshops, and it is not possible. It is not possible to pay for rent, food, school, so many things because in our country, beyond scholarships, we need to support young writers with work programs, to make poetry, novels and narrative as a job," she said.

Her work in other latitudes

The native of the Oaxacan Mixteca Alta was also informed that one of her four books, "The Forms of Rain", has been translated into Bengali / বৃষ্টিধারার নানা রূপ. And it will be available in Bangladesh and India. Due to health conditions, I have not been able to go and present it on-site, but I know that there are people in those countries who are learning Spanish. Recently learned that in one of the Free Textbooks (Lecturas, 5th grade), her bilingual Mixtec-Spanish poem, "Ntuchinuu" (Eyes), was integrated on page 118.

"Ntuchinuu" (Eyes)

"My mother says that I have my great-grandmother's eyes/I remember her eyes while she cleaned corn/many times I saw her cry/cry when she cooked/when she sang/when she put coffee./I asked her, 'why do you cry so much ma'?/and she told me like this without stopping crying:/because we have rivers inside and sometimes they come out/the rivers don't grow yet/but soon they will/now I understand everything/now I have rivers in me and my eyes."

They tagged me on Facebook, they said that a girl was reading a poem in their language, it took me by surprise. And I said: how nice, it gives me great joy that it happened, that they read in their language, it is something essential, that they know they have the right to read stories like this, said López García.

"I want them to know that it doesn't matter if their parents are migrants, day laborers, peasants, they can have the possibility of breaking that wall we were born with, mine is one, but how many stories don't happen, that tried and there was no space for them? It is not about who already made it, who already did this or that, it is about other people starting to rethink their present, to question it", concluded the native of the Mixteca Alta.