News Around the Republic of Mexico | February 2008
|Mexico City Mayor Wants to Revive Aztec Language|
Mica Rosenberg - Reuters
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Mexico City – Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard wants all city employees, from hospital workers to bus drivers, to learn the Aztec language Nahuatl in an effort to revive the ancient tongue, the city government said.
Leftist Ebrard, seen as a possible presidential candidate in 2012, presented his government's development plan this week translated for the first time into Nahuatl.
“This publication is not just a symbolic act, it is the first step to institutionalizing the use of Nahuatl in the government,” his office said a statement.
The next step will be offering Nahuatl classes to city government officials, including the mayor and his cabinet, and distributing booklets about indigenous culture to 300,000 public servants, said Rosa Marquez who runs the program.
Nahuatl gave the world words like “tomato”, “chocolate”, and “avocado”, all of which were consumed in ancient Mexico.
The native language dominated central Mexico over 1,000 years ago and is still spoken by some 1.4 million of Mexico's 107 million people today but it fell from widespread use after the Spanish conquered Mexico in the early 16th century.
Mexico City, home to only, 30,000 Nahuatl speakers is already providing translators in hospitals and courts but wants desk workers to learn the basics of the language in classroom sessions and online courses.
Many Nahuatl speakers are migrants who come from poverty-stricken towns to find jobs as street vendors or as domestic workers since indigenous people suffer higher levels of discrimination, said Marquez.
“Our native languages are disappearing, they are now mostly spoken only at home,” she said.
Since 1930 the percentage of people who speak one of Mexico's 62 native languages has fallen by almost 10 percentage points to 6.7 percent in 2005, according to the country's census. The language drive is the latest eye-catching initiative from Ebrard, who installed a huge ice rink in the main Zocalo square over Christmas and set up “beaches” of sand in public parks.