Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Indigenous languages throughout the Americas are increasingly endangered. One example of this, for Yucatec Maya, is discussed in this paper. In 1930, 16% of Mexicans spoke an indigenous language. By 2015 that number had halved – to 6.6% of the total population. Even for Yucatec Maya, the 2nd most spoken indigenous language (795, 000 speakers), intergenerational transmission of the language to new generations is significantly compromised with a faster rate language loss likely in the short-term. In summer 2018, I collected data in the urban centers of Merida and Valladolid, Yucatan by focusing on the efforts of proactive professionals engaged in revitalizing Yucatec Maya. I also obtained data on the ideologies and experiences they bring to their professional revitalization efforts. My field methods included observation, informant interviewing, and examination of printed and digital materials in Yucatec Maya. Despite some national and state governments’ financial support for Maya language revitalization, my data shows that participants unanimously agree that there is insufficient legislation enforcing action to secure the linguistic and cultural rights of Maya speakers in Yucatan as delineated in the General Law of Indigenous Peoples’ Linguistic Rights in Mexico. Among the linguistic and cultural rights identified by my informants as weak or non-existent, are the insufficient number of indigenous schools, poor pedagogical resources, the lack of sufficient qualified educators to teach Maya, the lack of meaningful Maya pedagogic material production and distribution, and the practically non-existent prestation of public services for Maya-speakers in their language, such as medical and legal interpreting.