Did you know there are over 60 indigenous languages in Mexico?
Did you know Náhuatl is also considered as an official language in the country?
Mexico’s historic and cultural richness can be seen and felt on every corner, building, landscape and even on the food we eat. However, what truly makes this country so culturally profound is that this same richness is carried by its people. It’s often said that Mexico is diversity. This theory can easily be proven when we analyze anywhere from its nature to its gastronomy, but of course, the most important role is played by the people that, up to this day, carry the heritage of at least 68 indigenous languages and over 350 derivatives and dialects of them. In this map, you’ll learn to locate the states that are host to the 7 most spoken indigenous languages in Mexico.
Náhuatl (+ 1,500,000 speakers*)
The most prolific indigenous language in Mexico. In fact, it is also considered as a second official language in the country. It traces back to the fifth century and expanded all over Mesoamerica. For the fifteenth century, Náhuatl was spoken all through the Mexica empire. Nowadays, you may find this language speakers mainly throughout Estado de México, Mexico City, Puebla, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Morelos, Durango, Tlaxcala, Michoacán, Nayarit, San Luis Potosí, among others.
Mayan (Yucatecan) (+ 780,000 speakers*)
The term Yucatecan Mayan is used to classify this among other Mayan derivatives, however, it’s commonly known simply as Mayan and its spoken through a large part of the south of Mexico, all the way to Belize and Guatemala, where this culture’s civilization reached. It’s one of the most ancient pre-Hispanic languages and its said that its origins can be traced back to 1,600 A.D. Today, you may find Mayan speakers among Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Corozal (Belize), Orange Walk (Belize), and Petén (Guatemala).
Mixteco (+ 477,000 speakers*)
The Mixtecan languages conform a very large family of derivatives. In fact, due to the migratory movements of this population, it’s possible to find speakers among many states in the country and even on the US. However, their main regions nowadays are Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero.
Zapoteco (+ 450,000 speakers*)
History between Mixtecas and Zapotecas is based upon complex clashes and relationships due to their proximity in the pre-Hispanic era. For this same reason, nowadays you may find these languages spread among the same regions, being: Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero, and for the Zapoteco, a small part of Veracruz.
Tzeltal (+ 445,000 speakers*)
The Tzeltal are one of the many ethnic groups and languages that descent from the Maya. They establish themselves along the mountainous regions of Chiapas and account for over 445 thousand speakers to this date, where most of the children are bilingual (Tzeltal – Spanish) even though their grandparents are mostly monolingual.
Tzoltzil (+ 400,000 speakers*)
Tzoltzil is too, a derivative of the Mayan language. Their speakers can also be located in the state of Chiapas from the central region to a little further up north. Actually, Tzoltzil and Tzeltal are closely related as they can be traced to similar origins.
Otomí (+ 280,000 speakers*)
Even though Otomí accounts for fewer speakers, it extends through a larger area of the country than some of the languages we’ve previously seen. Nowadays, you may find this language in Estado de México, Hidalgo, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Puebla, Mexico City, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Michoacán, and San Luis Potosí. However, only 50% of the Otomí people speak their own language and this numbers seem to be lowering, that’s why we must protect its proliferations and preservation.
Through our language, we communicate our culture and history. Besides, our language shapes the way we see and understand the world. That’s why it must be a priority to protect them as a legacy in our national heritage and as a great part of the cultures that give life to our country. Would you like to learn a pre-Hispanic language? Which one?
*Data taken from INEGI Censos y Conteos de Población y Vivienda (2010 Census)