A Gathering of Indigenous Language Digital Activism in Oaxaca, Mexico

'Colorful', Mexico, Oaxaca - Photo by Chris Ford  (CC BY-NC 2.0)

‘Colorful’, Mexico, Oaxaca. Photo by Chris Ford (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Global Voices through its Rising Voices initiative, the Juan de Córdova Research Library, and SURCO invite indigenous language activists from all across Mexico to take part in the Indigenous Language Digital Activism Gathering that will take place on October 3-5 at the San Pablo Cultural Center in the historical center of Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico.

The central focus of this gathering is to provide a space for peer learning and exchange targeted at 25 indigenous language digital activists that are currently using their languages in digital media. 

Mexico is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in Latin America with more than 300 indigenous languages spoken and written on a daily basis, and many of these are in danger of extinction. Technology has been adopted in recent times for academic documentation and for the creation of language learning software as a way to study and preserve these languages.

New generations have also been taking to the Internet to tweet, blog, or podcast in their native languages as part of their daily online routines. However, an emerging movement comprised of indigenous Internet users are welcoming the responsibility to promote their language and culture online in an effort to revitalize the language and encourage the next generations of speakers. This sense of duty to their community drives these digital activists to dedicate their own time and resources towards this noble cause.

Despite these grassroots efforts, many digital activists work in relative isolation facing unique and ongoing challenges, such as:

  • Technical challenges - including the unavailability of a keyboard with the appropriate characters necessary for writing in the language.
  • Linguistic challenges – including a lack of a consensus among the community on the correct version of the written alphabet, or a lack of technology-related terminology in the language
  • Socio-cultural challenges – including communities that may yet to have discussions about how their language and culture should or should not be openly shared online.

The good news is that there are strategies to address these challenges in unique contexts, as demonstrated by the growing number of success stories of how communities have been using participatory media to promote their languages online. However, there continues to be a need to find ways for these digital activists to connect with one another to share their stories and experiences.

That's where the Indigenous Language Digital Activism Gathering comes in. This group will include bloggers, audio-visual producers, Wikipedia editors, and free software localizers, all creating digital content in Mexican indigenous languages.

Through peer-led discussions and hands-on workshops, there will be ample opportunity for the participants to build digital skills, as well to engage in conversations about the unique challenges that they face. In addition, workshops exploring the topic of online and offline digital activism and how their work can continue to have an impact in their communities.

There will also be two public events where those interested in learning more about how these communities are working to help make this social change through their digital work.

Those interested can apply to attend and full and partial travel scholarships are available.

Please note: this opportunity is only open for participants that speak an indigenous language and who reside in Mexico. The deadline to apply is August 29, 2014. For more information, please use the Contact Form on the event's blog.


  • Ron Mader

    I would encourage you to contact Moisés García Guzmán in Tlacochahuaya. His YouTube account of lessons in the local Zapotec is one of my all-time favorite channels! https://www.youtube.com/user/BnZunni

    Any of the participants or organizers who want to collaborate on English-Spanish-Indigenous language directories or travel tips are welcome to collaborate on the Oaxaca Wiki

  • closetothetruth

    “lack of a consensus among the community on the correct version of the written alphabet”

    really? how about, “unwritten language,” for which attempting to promulgate any way of writing it down is understood by most language activists and language rights organizations to be potentially destructive and unwelcome, let alone the idea that there is a “correct” way?

    how about linguistic human rights, which directly suggest technology advocates should not be putting themselves in the middle of some of the world’s oldest and most poisonous controversies?

    how about a website purportedly devoted to these topics not using disparaging terms and concepts?

    how about a website purportedly devoted to these topics having some idea what it’s talking about before talking?

    how about a project devoted to these topics not “inadvertently” making things much worse?

    how about “digital activists” not thinking they automatically know better about topics they actually have done very little research into?

    how about their not encouraging the youngest and most impressionable parts of those communities to think they know better than the rest of them, they know how to “rescue” what does not need rescuing, and inadvertently doing great damage?

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