Scholars translated the Mexican Constitution into Mayan recently and the new document will help the country’s large Mayan population understand their rights better and hopefully avoid more tragedies, according to advocates.
There are 786,113 Mayan speakers in Mexico, making them the second largest group of indigenous language speakers after the 1,544,968 Nahuatl language speakers throughout the country.
This new effort is part of the Translation of the Mexican Constitution to Indigenous Languages Project as well as the Bicentennial Commemoration of the Independence Movement and the 100th Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.
Fidencio Briceno, a linguistic scholar of Mayan descent and the Coordinator of the translation, addressed the Mexican Senate on August 4 after presenting the newly translated document to the legislators.
“I bring you an affectionate greeting from the Mayan people, because it’s important to remember that each time we make use of an indigenous language, we not only bring visibility to what we’re using, we also show the vitality of the culture along with opening new paths to the law,” Briceno stated.
“It is necessary to note that our language is a living legacy, useful and important, like any other language of the world,” he continued, “and as it’s said that whoever does not know his history does not know his origin, we can also say that whoever does not know the laws does not know his rights and it’s for that reason that this work is so important.”
At the presentation event in the Mexican Senate, Senator Luis Sanchez also noted how important it was to have more official documents available in indigenous languages. He also pointed out that most of the 8,000 indigenous people who were in prison last year had their rights violated due to the absence of bilingual personnel, meaning that many didn’t know the charges against them among other problems.
The country’s National Institute of Indigenous Languages (NIIL), which was in charge of this translation and others, has been advocating for more translations of the Constitution into most of the country’s 68 indigenous languages (which includes 364 linguistic variations). The NIIL also reports that of those 6.9 million indigenous language speakers, more than 1 million of them do not speak Spanish.
In the process of doing the translations the NIIL brought together institutions with qualified translators and students, this included the active participation of several universities such as the University of the East, the Indigenous University of San Luis Potosi, the Intercultural University of the State of Chiapas as well as Veracruzian Academy of Indigenous Languages. These institutions made it possible to obtain translations of 13 different linguistic variations, representing 5 of the 11 linguistic families that are spoken in Mexico.