Mayan Spoken Here.

An Indian Country Today piece by Dominique Godrèche makes me want to visit the Biennale in Venice:

The 56th edition of the International Art Biennale of Venice, All the world’s futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor, presented, for the first time, “Voces Indigenas,” an exhibition entirely dedicated to the Native languages of Latin America. All the world’s futures runs through November 22.

Located on the huge site of the Arsenale, in the Pavilion of Latin America, curated by Alfonso Hug and Alberto Saraiva, and run by the Italo-Latin American Institute (IILA) the project “When the voice is the soul of a people,” was conceived by artists, linguistic experts and tribal members, through sound installations exclusively representing the mythology, history… of Native communities from 16 countries of Latin America.

Each audio installation transmits a particular story, told by members of the various tribes, in their respective languages. […]

Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Uruguay were among the countries represented with Sandra Monterroso representing Guatemala. Monterroso was one of the few artists who spoke her own text given that she had studied her language – Maya Q’eqchi’.

There’s a good interview with Monterroso, and I was moved by her final, simple wish: “I dream that one day, you will be able to choose the Mayan language in school.” (Thanks, Trevor.)

Comments

  1. ““Voces Indigenas,” an exhibition entirely dedicated to the Native languages of Latin America”

    Oh, the irony!

  2. In the 1995 Guatemalan peace accords, the Government agreed to “promote the use of all indigenous languages in the educational system,” along with other protections and recognitions of Mayan and other languages.

    http://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/GT_950331_AgreementIdentityAndRightsOfIndigenousPeoples.pdf

    There seems to be some progress being made in bilingual education in early grades, which then switch over to 100% Spanish as the children get older.

    Although Monterroso expresses the hope that children will someday be educated in “the Mayan language,” this is an impossibility, as Mayan is a language group, not a language.

    Over 40% of Guatemalans speak an indigenous language as a first language. But there are many indigenous languages – 21 are officially recognized. Most but not all are Mayan languages. The one with the largest numbers of speakers is Ki’che’, with a million speakers of several dialects. From there, the numbers drop off to half a million, then to under 100,000, and then smaller yet.

    With the largest indigenous language having less than 15% of the population as speakers, and the other dozen or more indigenous languages having a few percent. Q’eqchi’, (or Kek’chi’), the language spoken by Monterroso, has perhaps 400,000 speakers.

    It would be possible for a national government to create a parallel curriculum and textbooks, and to train teachers, for k-12 education in a single indigenous language. But in 21? or even in 5? – that would be an impossibility.

    And it would be absurd to ask a Kek’chi’ child to attend a school taught in Ki’che’.

    I do not know the answer. I am articulating the problem.

  3. Jeffry House says:

    I once met a woman in rural Venezuela, in native dress, who told me her native language was Cakchiquel. I believe this is the language called Kek’chi above. She told me her name was Xualoda (spelling approximate).

    She had two small children with her, so I asked her their names. “Wendy and Cindy” she said. I asked why she had chosen those names. “Wendy from Peter Pan” she said, “and Cindy from Cindy Lauper.”

  4. And it would be absurd to ask a Kek’chi’ child to attend a school taught in Ki’che’.

    More absurd than asking them to attend a school taught in Spanish?

  5. And it would be absurd to ask a Kek’chi’ child to attend a school taught in Ki’che’.

    Indeed, that’s the question. Some minority language varieties can see other, more prominent, varieties as their Dachsprache (as Flemish to Standard Dutch) and others can’t (as Welsh to English). Polynesian is a family and not a language, but it’s not inconceivable that a Polynesian koine could come into existence.

  6. SFReader says:

    -It would be possible for a national government to create a parallel curriculum and textbooks, and to train teachers, for k-12 education in a single indigenous language. But in 21? or even in 5? – that would be an impossibility.

    Russia has minority language education in 73 languages.

    Poverty-stricken Russian republic of Dagestan alone has education in Agul (29 thousand speakers), Avar (700 thousand speakers), Darghin (485 thousand speakers), Kumyk (426 thousand speakers), Lak (145 thousand), Lezgin (402 thousand speakers in Russia), Nogay (88 thousand ), Tabasaran (126 thousand) and Tat (3 thousand speakers) languages.

    I am quite sure Guatemalan government will be able to afford to provide primary and secondary school education in all Maya languages.

    They just don’t want to do it.

  7. SFReader says:

    Guatemala had GDP per capita of 3,700 USD in 2013. Gross Regional Product per capita in Dagestan was about 4,300 USD in 2013.

    It’s true that Dagestan receives significant aid from federal budget, but Guatemala also gets a lot of aid from international donors.

    If the Guatemalan government asked aid for minority language education, surely they would get it.

  8. I am quite sure Guatemalan government will be able to afford to provide primary and secondary school education in all Maya languages.

    They just don’t want to do it.

    Exactly. I mean, anything’s possible, but the a priori likelihood of “they just don’t want to” is so great that it would take an overwhelming amount of evidence from unimpeachable sources to convince me otherwise. See: the invariable reaction of every business everywhere faced with some proposed new regulation.

  9. Classical Mayan would have the necessary glitter to serve as a Dachsprache, if Cholan is not really spoken in Guatemala.

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