Jun 25, 2013

The Other Mexicans: Indigenous people come from a world apart from Spanish-speaking Mexicans

National Geographic
Katya Cengel
Published June 24, 2013

Mixteco is Villegas's native language. It is the only language he spoke fluently when he came to the United States sixteen years ago at the age of seven. The trilingual rap song is his own creation and he takes to heart its Spanish language refrain: "Mixteco is a language, not a dialect. It's the gold that I treasure."

Villegas spent two years working in the grape fields where his older siblings still toil. Now he is a community worker at the Fresno headquarters of the Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities, a nonprofit that focuses on the specific needs of indigenous Mexicans who have migrated to California. Across the United States these indigenous migrants are isolated even more than other immigrant groups. They speak neither English nor Spanish and are often looked down on by Spanish-speaking Mexicans.

They may not be the Spanish-speaking migrants that politicians picture when they discuss immigration reform, but as their numbers increase and trilingual members like Miguel organize, they have their own stake in the fractious debate in Washington. A possible language requirement would be particularly difficult for indigenous communities. Without Spanish, their road to English fluency will be that much harder. Their own languages are not traditionally written languages. Many have not had formal schooling.  Read more. 

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