Today is International Mother Language Day. I thought I would share this excerpt and link to a story in the latest issue of the Cultural Survival Quarterly as a way to celebrate work being done to help Indigenous peoples stay connected with their Mother Tongues.
Daniel Gomez is a farmer and carpenter who lives in Palín, Escuintla, a Poqomam Maya town in Guatemala and a virtual island in the sea of Spanish-speaking cities and towns that comprise the Guatemala City metro area. Gomez and his wife raised their children to be bilingual speakers of Poqomam and Spanish. They worked hard to ensure that their children (including Cultural Survival staff member Cesar Gomez) all received a university education, while at the same time remaining deeply rooted in Poqomam culture.
Gomez was concerned that the Poqomam language and traditions were slipping away, subsumed by the waves of Spanish language and culture that washed over the people in the form of radio and television from nearby Guatemala City, coupled with the schools’ monolingual Spanish education system. In an attempt to stem the tide, Gomez, together with other citizens of Palín, established two community-based
institutions: a bilingual school that gave equal weight to Poqomam and Spanish, and a radio station that did the same. The idea was simple: students would become bilingual in the classroom, and their bilingualism would be reinforced on the local airwaves. The success of Gomez’s story is one of many inspiring examples of a grassroots effort to reverse the trend of an Indigenous community’s language loss.
Read the whole article at www.culturalsurvival.org