These Authors Are Writing in Indigenous Languages to Keep Native Traditions Alive

Lead Photo: Notimex/Guillermo Gonzalez/GGM/ACE
Notimex/Guillermo Gonzalez/GGM/ACE
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Those who write books in indigenous languages are not in it for the E.L. James money or fame. Javier Castellanos, who won the 2002 Premio Nacional de Literatura Indígena Nezahualcóyotl, said that authors of books in indigenous languages rarely have critics, let alone readers. Despite the modest audience for the work, the importance can’t be overstated. It’s one way that native languages are being kept alive.

Castellanos, with the help of Jóvenes Creadores del Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, tutors a group of young writers who have been working on ambitious and completely badass projects. There’s Pergentino José from Oaxaca, who plans to take the oral stories and traditions of Zapoteco de Loxicha into stories that can be held. For Elizabeth Sáenz Díaz, it’s about writing stories so that newer generations can continue to have a connection to Zoque.

Because it’s impressive to hear about these projects, we’ve compiled a list of five writers who are holding it down for the indigenous populations.

Socorro Gómez

Gómez is working on eight stories that will be written in both Spanish and Mayan in Keremetik: Cuentos y Fábulas Chamulas. She is working with anthropologist and Tzotzil-language writer Nicolás Huet.

Wildernain Villegas Carrillo

Wildernain is an award-winning poet who writes in both Spanish and Mayan. His books include Nikte’ T’aan (Palabra en Flor), U K’iinil Tsibo’ob (Sol de Palabras), and U K’Aay Ch’I’Ibal. He also translated María Magdalena Vásquez’s Por el Suelo y Sin Zapatos into Mayan.

Aminta Peláez Wouliyuu

Guajirita: Jintulu Wayuu is Aminta Peláez Wouliyuu’s book is about a young Wayuu Colombian girl who gives readers a look into her life and customs. The book is in Spanish and Wayuunaiki.

Raymundo Isidro Alavez

Notimex/Guillermo Gonzalez/GGM/ACE

In 2012, Raymundo Isidro Alavez took children’s book classic The Little Prince and translated it into Hñähñu, an Otomí language. Things like asteroids and planets do not exist in Hñähñu, making Alavez’s job that much more difficult when working on Ra zi ts´unt´u dängandä.

Liliana Ancalao, Mario Castells, Juan Chico, Lecko Zamora

In their anthology, Lenguaje. Poesía en idiomas indígenas americanos, these four authors have taken on poetry in wichi, mapuche, and qom.