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Mexico: Writing the Future in Indigenous Languages - San Cristóbal de las Casas Declaration

Wednesday 8 May 2019 - 3:30pm

Chiapas Lineup

PEN International, UNESCO, University of Sciences and Arts of Chiapas – INALI

San Cristóbal de las Casas -  Chiapas, Mexico, 1 -5 May 2019

Writers from all over the world have come together these days, in the shadow of the death of indigenous activist Telésforo Santiago Enríquez, who was shot dead in the Sierra Sur, Oaxaca. In recent years, Enríquez had dedicated himself to promoting indigenous rights through “El Cafetal” radio station in San Agustin de Loxicha.

We reaffirm that the written and spoken word are tools for preserving and developing historical memories, documenting the present and defining the future. Indigenous languages and knowledge have survived centuries of oppression, violence and death, as well as forced segregation and exclusion. Their cultural legacy has been passed down voice by voice, as was done over thousands of years, with grandparents and living narrators imparting these legacies.

Oral literary tradition, together with speech has been part of our physical development over thousands of years to become active listeners. In this world in which immediacy and individualism are valued, they are now in danger. Thus, we to return to listening to each other, person to person, with respect, love and in pursuit of Peace in order to reach the “good life” (“buen vivir”) as humans, in co-existence with the natural world, conscious that we are in rural areas as well as in cities.

Writing is an ally of Indigenous Peoples. Translation opens windows for each community, both inwardly and outwardly. New forms of recording, such as audio-visual, music and song, bring with them the necessity of free expression, as part of human dignity.

The future is a very distant goal; the responsibility for actions that we take in the present challenges us to retake the path of Indigenous Peoples, dynamic peoples, and to re-connect ourselves to mother earth because, as one humanity, we are at risk.

The rights of mother earth include us, given that we are part of her. The earth is so close that we feel it beneath our feet, and we should protect it.

With this gathering in Chiapas, PEN International’s Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee, INALI, UNICACH, and UNESCO reaffirm the belief that the world is made up of many worlds. With participants from five continents, we open the dialogue of how to tie together writing, orality and the freedom of thought and expression. We hope to convert into wisdom and strength the pain and apparent weaknesses of those who DO NOT fear the challenges of the future, as difficult as they may be. Because of this, the Mayan and Zoque writers who participated in the meetings over these days have agreed to continue meeting in order to provide a continuity of the work carried out during this meeting.

From the above, We Declare:

  • Linguistic communities, indigenous communities, and every one of their speakers today no longer accept living in invisibility;
  • A firm resolution to restore self-pride;
  • Indigenous peoples are determined to recover shared memories, to rebuild identity and heal wounds;
  • All the above are essential in order to be able to continue the path to “the good life” (“Buen Vivir”);
  • The world today needs to recognise and transmit the value of indigenous knowledge;
  • The preservation of indigenous languages and cultures can save the future of humanity;
  • We are convinced that now is the time for a new cultural offensive of indigenous literatures with the objective of making them relevant to their own environment and opening them up to dialogue with the world.

We urge you to affirm that, in all areas, the problems that we face are real, tangible and urgent.

Translated from the original Spanish by Francisca da Gama