The Grammar of Identity: Bilingual school, teachers and the “rescue” of identity in San Mateo del Mar (Oaxaca, Mexico)
In the last twenty years the pluralistic turn in the political and legal arena overturned the indigenist discourse of “incorporación” that sustained the educational politics for indigenous peoples in Mexico as in many countries of Latin America during the twentieth century. Nevertheless, working in an ethnographic perspective, this change can be read in a different way, by observing an opposite process that the official discourse disowns, which is the “incorporation” of the school in the indigenous societies. This article, which arises from a long experience of field research in the Huave indigenous community of San Mateo del Mar in southern Mexico, aims to reflect on the role of school in authorizing the identity discourse. Through the analysis of a grammar lesson of indigenous language (ombeayiüts /our mouth/), I want to show how a background discourse of identity take root in the classroom, in the interference between use of the native language and the Spanish language; it is the same discourse that has supported, since the early 90’s, the assumption of pronoun ikoots (“we” in inclusive form) as a new endo-ethnonym and, in a parallel way, the definition of a political role for indigenous teachers in the community.
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