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Mexican Newspaper Launches Mayan-Language Edition

Imagen de la edición de La Jornada Maya publicada en Twitter por @YUCATANALMINUTO.

Photo of the Mayan edition of La Jornada daily newspaper in Mexico, published on Twitter by @YUCATANALMINUTO.

La Jornada, one of the main newspapers in Mexico, has recently launched an edition with content in Mayan. It will be published daily in Mérida, the state capital of Yucatán, in Mexico's southeast.

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico, Mayan is the country's second most spoken indigenous language, with about 800,000 speakers, after Náhuatl. Today, the largest populations of Mayan speakers can be found in the Mexican states of YucatánCampecheQuintana RooTabasco, and Chiapas.

The institute indicates that in Mexico around 6.6 million people speak an indigenous language, which in 2010 represented 6.5 percent of the Mexican population, a reduction since 1930, when this figure was around 16 percent of the population.

Mayan is also spoken in the Central American countries of Belize and Guatemala. It forms part of the legacy of the Mayan culture, which was famous for its literary and architectural wealth, such as the structures of Tikal in Guatemala and Chichen Itza in Mexico.

This is how La Jornada referred to their new Mayan-language edition:

Con dos plataformas, una digital y otra de papel, la franquicia más reciente del periódico nacional La Jornada se publica con la intención de responder a las necesidades informativas de la sociedad yucateca, cambiante, diversa y culta, con todas las herramientas del periodismo.

Echamos mano de la noticia que no se conforma con la versión oficial, sino en presentar todos los ángulos de los hechos; la perspectiva editorial insistirá en dar voz a movimientos y actores sociales; la vocación del periodismo crítico; la crónica que narra hechos sin perder capacidad del asombro; el reportaje que profundiza y cuestiona; la entrevista que indaga y sostiene diálogos inteligentes y amenos con los actores políticos, sociales y culturales; el editorial, el artículo y la columna rigurosos e independientes.

With two platforms, one digital and one print, the most recent franchise of the national newspaper La Jornada is published with the intent to respond, using all the tools of journalism, to the information needs of the diverse, changing, and educated Yucatan society.

We don't deal with news that conforms to the official story, instead we present facts from all angles; the publication insists on giving a voice to social movements and figures; the profession of critical journalism, the feature that tells a story without losing its ability to astonish, the report that goes deeper and asks questions, the interview that investigates, and maintains intelligent and enjoyable dialogues with political, social, and cultural figures; the accurate and independent publisher, article, and column.

Website Chilam Balam questioned the initiative to distribute this daily newspaper in Mayan:

Un periódico diario editado en lengua maya y en español, destinado a toda la Península de Yucatán… ¿Es esto en verdad posible? En un contexto donde la cultura maya se ha usado sólo para “vender” turismo, en un contexto social donde la gente la han avergonzado de declararse maya y las instituciones educativas menosprecian nuestra cultura y especialmente nuestro idioma ¿es esto en verdad posible?

A daily newspaper in Mayan and Spanish, destined for the entire Yucatan Peninsula. Is this really possible? In a context where the Mayan culture has been used for nothing more than “selling” tourism. In a social context where people have felt ashamed to call themselves Mayan, and educational institutions look down on our culture, and especially, our language, is this really possible?

On the importance of having a publication in Mayan, linguist Enrique Martín Briceño emphasised:

Todavía hoy son muchos los que ignoran que el maya yucateco es un idioma –como el español, el náhuatl, el inglés y el chino– y que lo hablan más de 800 mil personas en Yucatán, Campeche y Quintana Roo. Muchos son también los que no saben que el maya peninsular es la lengua indígena mexicana con el mayor número de hablantes y que cuenta con una importante literatura colonial y una floreciente literatura contemporánea (el Premio Nezahualcóyotl de Literatura en Lenguas Mexicanas 2014 lo obtuvo la narradora maya Sol Ceh Moo).

Still today there are many who ignore the fact that Yucatan Mayan is a language, like Spanish, Náhuatl, English, and Chinese, and the fact that there more than 800,000 speakers in Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo. There are also many who don't know that Peninsular Mayan is the indigenous Mexican language with the greatest number of speakers and that it has important colonial literature, and its modern literature is flourishing (the Mayan storyteller, Sol Ceh Moo, won the 2014 Nezahualcoyotl Prize for Mexican Language Literature.

He also added:

Así pues, en una región donde la lengua maya tiene tal número de hablantes –no se trata de una lengua minoritaria, sino de una lengua minorizada–, en una zona donde la cultura indígena tiene tal vitalidad –y no solo en el medio rural: Mérida y Cancún son en gran medida mayas–, la presencia del idioma y la cultura originarios no puede reducirse al ámbito familiar y a los contados espacios públicos que hasta ahora se les han otorgado.

Therefore, in an area with such a high number of Mayan speakers, we are not talking about a minority language but a marginalised one. In an area where the indigenous language has such vitality, not just in rural environments – Merida y Cancun are in a large part Mayan – the presence of the original culture and language cannot be reduced to merely the family environment and the few public spaces that up until now it had been granted.

Twitter user Martin del Mar celebrated the newspaper going into circulation:

The best Mexican newspaper arrives in the Yucatan Peninsula: From today La Jornada Maya will go into circulation in Mérida. Congratulations!

Chakz Armanda announced that he will be one of its contributors:

La Jornada Maya begins in Yucatán, where I will be contributing periodically. Grab your free copy now!…

The national version of La Jornada is a tabloid with a critical stance toward the government, constantly aligned with the discourse of the country's political parties that identify themselves as “leftist”, among those, the Party of the Democratic Revolution, and the more recent National Regeneration Movement. Clarin (Chile) and the BBC (United Kingdom) are some of the organisations that are associated with the national edition of the publication.

In its second stage of distribution, La Jornada Maya plans to reach the states of Quintana Roo and Campeche in the southeast of the country. If it prospers, it will be one of the most interesting initiatives that has been undertaken to preserve and give presence to an Amerindian language at risk of falling into disuse — and perhaps extinction.

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