Formal efforts begin to integrate the Mayan language

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The Peninsula is taking steps to preserve and foster the Mayan tongue. Photo: Courtesy

Mérida, Yucatán — Top officials from the Peninsula’s three states on Wednesday vowed to step up efforts to preserve the Mayan language, integrating it into daily life.

Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo will join forces to create a multi-lingual society, they said in a ceremony on International Mother Language Day at the Siglo XXI convention center.

Gov. Rolando Zapata Bello inaugurated the first Peninsular Congress for the Institutionalization of the Mayan Language. That will bring together specialists, promoters and academics of the three estates to build the foundations of a program of linguistic inclusion, an unprecedented event in the country.

An estimated 800,000 people speak Mayan in a country where Spanish is most commonly spoken. Mexico has no official language, but nationally, about six million citizens speak indigenous languages.

Zapata Bello was flanked by Delio Carrillo Pérez, secretary of Campeche culture; and Ana Isabel Vázquez Jiménez, secretary of education of Quintana Roo. Also present were officials from both local and federal governments.

Following the intonation of the national anthem in the Mayan language, by students of the Miguel Castro primary school in the port of Progreso, Maya writer Briseida Cuevas welcomed the attendees on behalf of the Mayan community.

“Languages ​​do not know borders, they cross them,” said the writer and cultural promoter Saúl Juárez Vega, who attended, representing the national secretary of culture.

Gregorio Regino, director general of the National Institute of Indigenous Languages ​​of Mexico, said that with this measure the Mayan language will be used interchangeably with Spanish.

The official said that one of the challenges of the Mexican state is to move from monolingualism to multilingualism.

He noted that it is not only a question of recognizing the existence of indigenous languages, but of creating conditions to strengthen the linguistic communities of the 68 indigenous peoples so that, in absolute respect for their autonomy and self-determination, they can define the destiny of their languages.

In Mexico there are 11 linguistic families, 68 groups and 364 variants, of which 64 are at risk of disappearing.

International Mother Language Day is a worldwide annual observance to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and promote multilingualism. It was first announced by UNESCO in 1999.

With information from Diario de Yucatán, agencies

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