Indigenous languages are often characterized as archaic, a connection to a past life, certainly not thriving cultures and communities that exist in a modern society. But this mentality isn’t just wrong; it’s also dangerous.
In a powerful speech delivered by Mixe author Yásnaya Aguilar to Mexico’s Congress last month, the writer explains that in the country, where indigenous languages are largely viewed as backwards, the state has killed off certain tongues.
“Our languages don’t die out, they’re killed off,” she said. “The Mexican state has erased them with its singular thinking, its [promotion of] a single culture, a single state. It was Mexico that took our Indigenous languages, [Mexico] erases and silences us. Even though the laws have changed, it continues to discriminate against us within its educational, health, and judicial systems.”
According to Aguilar, known for works like “Nosotros sin México: Naciones Indígenas y Autonomía” and “#Ayuujk: ¿Lenguas Útiles y Lenguas Inútiles,” by making Spanish, a language forced on the people of the region five centuries ago by Spain, the most important tongue of the nation, the state has created a culture where language discrimination can flourish.
“Languages are important, but their speakers are even more important,” she added. “Languages die because their speakers are subjected to discrimination and violence.”
For Aguilar, the country would thrive if it recognized the beauty and strengths, rather than challenges, that come with a multicultural society.
“Being Mexican is a legal status, it’s not a cultural status,” she added.
Watch Aguilar’s thoughtful speech in its entirety in the video above.
One of the biggest changes that the so called digital revolution has brought to our lives is the capacity that today’s computer systems have to process huge amounts of data. Processors today are able to run algorithms that bring together millions of data entries to find trends, cluster groups of similar objects and generate visualizations that can help us understand even the most complex aspects of science and culture. This is known popularly as “big data” and has changed the ways in which governments and companies understand reality and make decisions. For example, before high speed processing mathematicians took literally years to make sense of census data and find correlations between factors such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, age and literacy levels.
Guess what? This can be done today with a few clicks as computers bring together millions upon millions of data entries and make sense of it all. It all sounds very geeky, but big data is defining how we live our lives, from how traffic lights coordinate to how much tax you gotta pay each year.
So all this geeky, nerdy stuff should be put to good use, o no?
Enter Mexican geographer Baruch Sangines, a true wizard when it comes to generating great data visualizations.
This young scientist is the Chief Data Scientist at a company called Jetty, and he does some pretty groundbreaking research on pressing social issues such as housing and poverty.
His LinkedIn profile is pretty impressive: “Experience in public and private sector with skills to analyze and visualize data related to: commuting, transit, housing, tourism, migration, security, and urban environment. Expert in territorial analysis and passionate about the cartography and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to visualize small and big data”. Wow. hold your horses, Einstein! He is a proud graduate of Mexico’s National University and has Master’s Degree on Demographics and Statistics.
So why did he go viral on Mexican social media in the past few days? We mean, science is sexy but not viral sexy (sadly!). All because of this map:
No, it is not a visualization of WiFi points in Mexico. No, it is not a rendition of cartel activity. No, it is not a highlight of the areas in which development runs at a faster pace. It is about something much, much more relevant to everyday life in Mexico lindo y querido. Any guesses?
Nothing is more important than a delicious taco when you most need it!
Just look at that tortilla, a bit crispy, a bit soft… and that perfectly marinated meat…
Well, Baruch created a visualization of taco stands in Mexico and nos ponemos de pie ante tal maravilla!
Baruch called this visualization Taco Universe, and it showcases all the registered taco stands and shops in the country. We can clearly see that there is a high concentration of taco shrines in the capital Mexico City, and that hotspots like Cancun and Cabo are also highlighted, perhaps thanks to gringo tourism craving fish tacos. The scientists used the database Directorio Estadístico Nacional de Unidades Económicas (Denue) (Statistical National Directory of Economic Units) from the federal census agency INEGI. The map highlights how taco culture is primarily based in the center of the country, with local varieties such as Puebla’s tacos arabes (a shawarma like type) increasing the traffic in that area.
But it is important to note that many taco stands are not accounted for (and that is not this scientist’s fault).
Thousands of Mexicans subsist in an informal economy with businesses that are not registered and pay no taxes. Among these businesses, mobile taco stands reign supreme. There are hundreds of taco stands all around the country that are set up informally. Sometimes you can find the most delicious tacos there! You can also find informal vendors selling tacos de canasta, a variety that is literally carried in a basket. This map does not take these informal enterprises into account, even though they are key to Mexico’s taco culinary tradition.
So you are curious about tacos de canasta now, aren’t you?
Well, just look at these crispy, sweaty, fat-rich babes. Tacos de canasta are filled with guisados or stews, or with refried beans. We are almost sure that Baruch did not include them in his map, but we can forgive him for making us crave unos taquitos (we bet you are calling your comadres or compas right now to hit the taco stand) and showing us how Mexico is a country that despite its many challenges still finds time to live up to the old adage: barriga llena, corazon contento.
Sometimes, fashion is more than just a mirror of society. In a few instances, the fashion industry has actually been responsible for reshaping reality rather than just mirroring it. One way it does this is by breaking taboos and introducing marginalized ideas into the mainstream. The current visibility of transgender people is a development that the fashion world has embraced in recent years. Granted, fashion’s focus on the topic is, more often than not, on the “blurring of traditional lines between genders” to explore androgyny, but many designers and brands are currently emphasizing on a ‘gender-neutral’ and non-binary ethos. The editorial side of fashion however, has been a bit slow to embrace representation and support genderqueer people—but this month, Vogue Mexico and Latin-America, in collaboration with British Vogue, are leading the charge, by dedicating their cover story to a small group of people in Juchitán Oaxaca who seek to live outside of binary labels: Los Muxes.
Vogue Mexico and Latin-America has proven to be the most ‘woke’ publication of Conde Nast’s portfolio this year.
The magazine has doubled up on its efforts for representation and diversity. Just this year they made history by featuring an indigenous woman, Yalitza Aparicio, on the cover of a magazine for the very first time, ever. A few months later they featured four Afro-Latinas on their cover and opened the floor to discussion about what being Afro-Latina means. Just last month they honored indigenous women of different parts of Latin America for their 20th anniversary issue. And now, the magazine is shining a light on a centuries-old non-binary indigenous community of rural Mexico, and introducing them to the world.
In recent years, Oaxaca has become somewhat of a trendy destination.
The Zapotec state is a multicultural hub in the south of Mexico known for its delicious climate, rich food and complex history. The people of Oaxaca have fought hard to keep a lot of their centuries-old traditions and beliefs alive, and one of these beliefs —or rather, a group of people— is called “muxes.”
In Juchitán, a small indigenous town in Southern Oaxaca, a community of individuals known as ‘Muxes’, seek to live free of binary labels “male” and “female.”
The word muxes also spelled muxhes in some instances, comes from the Spanish word for woman “mujer,” and it generally represents people who are assigned male at birth, but identify as non-binary. Muxes have their own gender identity, different from what the West has traditionally dubbed to be female and male.
The iterations among the Muxe community and their self-identifications vary – some identify as male but are female-expressing, while others identify as female and are more closely associated with Western culture’s understanding of transgender. In their culture, the term “third gender” might be more suitable to define Muxes.
Muxes are ‘dual’ beings, they don’t believe in being ‘female’ or ‘male’, they simply are.
“To be muxe is a duality. We carry out the role depending on the circumstances, sometimes I might seem like a man, and others like a woman,” says Pedro Enriquez Godínez Gutiérrez, a person known locally in Juchitán as “La Kika,” in an interview with Vogue Mexico. Apart from being a muxe, he’s the Director of Sexual Diversity of Juchitán Town Hall.
Muxes have lived in Juchitan since pre-hispanic times, there are a few indigenous legends that explain their origins and give a faith to the antiquity of their existence.
There are two legends in Juchitán, that recount the origin of Muxes. One says that San Vicente Ferrer, the holy patron of Juchitán, had a pocket with holes in it, from which they fell out of. Another version says that as he walked the earth, San Vicente Ferrer, always carried three bags: one with male seeds, another loaded with female seeds, and a third that contained both seeds, mixed up. This last bag was the one that broke as he walked through Juchitán, and that is why there are so many muxes there.
The people of Juchitán are a sort of pre-hispanic family. In this town the women are as strong as the men and muxes are as respected as both men and women. Ironically, the system of tolerance and respect that’s existed there for centuries is considered ‘modern’, elsewhere.
Mixes are a community that not even the 21st century can wrap its head around.
“Gubixha bizaani guirá neza guzá ca,” writes Vogue Mexico, is Zapotec for “the sun illuminated all the roads they have walked”, and perhaps that is why they can walk the streets without fear in a predominantly Catholic country that still struggles to offer equal rights for women and that is mostly intolerant of sexual orientations and preferences, Juchitán remains greatly untouched by this hate. Muxes walk the streets with flowers in their hair, they wear light huipiles —a traditional garment worn by indigenous women— and colorful skirts. This indigenous town is a model of how a culture can make space for life outside of the binary. Juchitán is an example to even the most progressive cities of the world.
Vogue Mexico and Latin America teamed up with British Vogue to celebrate both British and Mexican talent.
The collaboration marked the first time both publications work together on a joint story. The experience allowed both publications to exchange ideas and share their cultures. Vogue Mexico’s cover, featuring Estrella, one of the muxes from Juchitán, was shot by Tim Walker, the iconic British fashion photographer, and the story will be published on both magazines for the month of December.
Vogue Mexico’s Editor-In-Chief took to Instagram to share the news of the cover story.
“It’s finally here!!! We are releasing one of our December covers early as it is a special joint collaboration with @britishvogue – thank you @edward_enninful for featur[ing] the beauty of MEXICO in the pages of British Vogue. No one could have captured the magical realism better than Tim Walker and Kate Phelan. Stay tuned for more!” wrote the Mexican editor Karla Martinez de Salas on her personal Instagram page.
Vogue Mexico’s December issue will be available nation-wide starting December 1st.
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