Spanish Imposed

The indigenous people of the Americas spoke many different languages, like "Nahuati", that was spoken by the Aztecs (Mexica). Each of these languages reflected the values of each tribe along with how the world was viewed. Today, many of these words still exist, albeit not in their original form or pronunciation but only because European societies had no translations for such words and I or sounds. Examples include terms like, "chocolate", "barbacoa", 'canoa", and "cacao".

When the Europeans, particularly the Spanish, arrived in the Americas they had no appreciation of indigenous languages, often teaching indigenous nobles their own language, "Castillian", so that they might act as translators. Little by little the Spanish began to instill within the various indigenous groups a sense of shame of their languages and the cultures they arose from. Most indigenous literature which carried with it a written testimony of the history and achievements of such people was destroyed by the Spanish, who began to impose their own language as "official."

At first, not all was lost. In the early stages of the 'conquista" of Latin America, some privileged indigenous people were educated in the first American universities, largely working as translators from Latin, Spanish, and the more prominent indigenous tongues (ic. Nahuatl and Maya). However the Spanish ruling class resented having an ~educated" indigenous class, and so forbade them from being schooTed at all. Forbidden to use their native language, or even to have access to its written texts, many indigenous peoples lost contact with their native tongues, and consequently many aspects of their own cultures.

In some rural parts of continental Latin America indigenous tongues are still spoken, but as the search for jobs bring such speakers to the bigger cities, their indigenous tongues tend to be replaced by Spanish, or even English as is the case for Mayan living in Belize.

Stop here and discuss:

1. Name other cultures that have been forced to speak a language other than the one their ancestors spoke? What have been the consequences of this?

2. Is it just for a culture to impose their language on another culture? Explain your view.

Other study guides:
Leaders Punished
Second Class Citizens
Spanish Imposed
Violence Continues
Catholicism Imposed
Destruction of Histories
Architecture Destroyed
Death by Diseases

Back to Indigenous Lessons