In this incipient 2022, the Mexican presidency has announced the dissolution of the National Institute of Indigenous Languages, INALI, the body responsible for the defence and promotion of the linguistic rights of speech communities in Mexico, created in 2003 with the aim of giving rigorous academic treatment to the preservation of the more than 60 ethno-linguistic families of the country.
Such an announcement comes as a surprise in the opening year of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) declared by the United Nations General Assembly, especially considering that it was in Mexico that, through the Los Pinos Declaration, its main objectives were presented, aimed at drawing attention to the dire situation of many indigenous languages.
Mexico’s indigenous peoples make up about 20% of the total population of Mexico, one of the richest and most linguistically diverse countries in the world. And yet, their lack of inclusion and the crisis in which their languages find themselves require determined and sustained action to reverse their persistent discrimination, and to settle the historical debt that the state owes them.
Until now, INALI has represented a space for attention to this diversity and the promotion of knowledge and respect for linguistic rights. Its disappearance will only place native languages and the problem of their disappearance at the bottom of the list of priorities and far from the urgent and specialised attention they require.
The treatment of indigenous languages expresses, as few other public policies do, the relationship between the state and the peoples that make it up. Recognising Mexico’s indigenous languages as national languages has been an enormous legal step towards a pluricultural and, eventually, plurinational nation. The next challenge should be to ensure that this first legal step becomes, little by little, a step towards a nation where indigenous peoples are a constituent part of it and not just citizens with the right to speak their languages. Making indigenous languages part of the normal, everyday life of Mexican society is the manifestation that indigenous peoples are not an exotic appendage of the nation. Moving in that direction is ultimately INALI’s mission.
Therefore, its disappearance would be to go backwards, to lose what has been gained in favour of indigenous languages, that is, in favour of a plural nation. And it would mean losing the possibility of being a reference for other nations with similar realities.
The proposals of the Los Pinos Declaration should help to strengthen and integrate all the institutions under an articulating scheme and to add the knowledge and experience of science and the academic world, as well as that of the organisations and institutions that have been working for a long time towards the preservation of the world’s languages.
Linguapax International warns of the danger of minimising the defence and promotion of linguistic diversity and its impact on the well-being of peoples and the construction of rich and cohesive societies. We are at the disposal of the competent authorities to offer the experience of our international network, which is nourished by successful initiatives and projects such as GALA’s, offering clear proposals to revolutionise language policies in Mexico and thus really try to reverse language shift that it is taking place to a greater or lesser extent.
We firmly believe that the Mexican government can make valuable contributions to the decade that will truly revitalise the languages that have contributed so much to the Mexican national identity.
That is why we ask him not to dissolve INALI but to turn it instead into a beacon for the Decade of Indigenous Languages.