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 Yucatán, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, 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:
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:
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:
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:
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.