August 30th, 2008 by ejalbright
A group of indigenous writers, whose compose their literature in their native language, met in Mexico City this past week to lament what is at the least a stagnation of their culture, and at the worst, a systemic destruction of their heritage.
Two writers of Maya heritage specifically pointed to the “commoditization” of Chichen Itza, which is part of an effort to disconnect indigenous peoples from their cultural heritage, according to an article in the Mexican journal, La Jornada.
Indigenous writers from around the Americas met at the Colegio Nacional Thursday and Friday to participate in Encuentro Internacional de Literatura en Lenguas IndÃgenas (International Meeting for Literature in Indigenous Languages). At the end of the congress, the group issued a manifesto that included the following calls to action:
–Create a catalog of indigenous languages of the Americas to clarify and reflect the hemisphere’s cultural richness and diversity
–Create a library of literature in original languages
–Create an organization on each continent of contemporary indigenous writers
–Make governments understand that indigenous people have the right to speak in their own language because they can say things better than in Spanish
The group also included ongoing demands of indigenous peoples, namely greater legal recognition and support for the proposals of bilingual and intercultural education. The group combined the demands into a synthesis of respect for “human rights and cultural rights.”
The congress of indigenous writers concluded that “interaction with other groups, especially those who despise Indians, has led to the loss of certain cultural traits such as language, traditions and customs.” This has resulted in a stagnation of indigenous languages. New words are no longer created, the group concluded, and if languages do not grow, they are less likely to survive.
But not UNESCO
The group stopped short, however, from petitioning the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) to recognize indigenous languages as a “World Heritage,” just as it does archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza.
Natalio HernÃ¡ndez, a Nahua writer from Veracruz, said that certain indigenous writers have been shunned by authorities because they believe the designation of World Heritage Sites has resulted in native peoples being banned from using these locales.
Feliciano SÃ¡nchez Chan, a Maya writer from Yucatan, said that a declaration UNESCO would give indigenous languages a stronger legal status on the international stage and open possibilities for financing for projects in favor of strengthening it. However, indigenous peoples mistrust UNESCO because of what is happening with archaeological sites. The Maya have been “robbed” of ancient cities such as Chichen Itza, which is managed as a commodity by catering to tourists, constructing hotels and nomination in contests such as the recent naming of the site as a “Wonder of the World,” SÃ¡nchez Chan said. MartÃn GÃ³mez RamÃrez, a writer from Chiapas, agreed, saying Chichen Itza is “ultimately controlled by businessmen.”
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