Young people go to the rescue of the Purépecha language

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Morelia, Michoacán (OEM-Infomex).- Los Simios Band appear on stage with their ska music that blends with pirekuas and lyrics sung in Purépecha. Despite being originally from Ihuatzio, owned by the municipality of Tzintzuntzán, they surprise the public with their proposal that is foreign to many natives of the place.

But it is not a coincidence. The graduate of the Purépecha Language and Culture diploma from the Indigenous Intercultural University of Michoacán (UIIM), Carlos Francisco Pedro Flores, warns that in Ihuatzio and other areas surrounding the municipality of Pátzcuaro the native language is almost completely extinct.

The vocalist and one of the creators of the Simios Band, Oscar Valdovinos Marcelino, explains that a couple of years ago they decided to create this project to combine their taste for rock and ska with traditional music and the Purépecha language, but also with the recover the cultural heritage that belongs to them as native peoples.

“We have adapted some of the Purépecha songs that have already been made with all due respect for ska and reggae, but we are also composing our own. And it is that one thing is certain, the language is no longer used, but the culture is also continuing its course and we understand that this is not being lost, because the only thing that has changed is the language”.


With some concerts in Morelia, the group has begun to expand and to be liked for having known how to place rock in the ears of its listeners alongside its indigenous roots, so now the intention is to be able to transfer that same message to other states of the country.

At 47 years old, Oscar Valdovinos is one of the musicians who remains active in the preservation of the Purépecha culture, since he even shares that the Simios Band is the appendage of something called the Workshop for Art and Culture that has been in Ihuatzio since late 80s, where precisely its function is the dissemination of Purépecha music with different workshops.

In addition to this, it is abundant that within this space interest is generated in knowing how the community works and the strategies to follow to reinforce the community culture, as well as the indigenous identity.

“We have given continuity to the work that Genaro García Marcelino and Domingo Ocampos began to do since 1988, so since 2005 we have been doing the same from different fronts, for example now we have a process underway that has to do with didactic tools for the teaching Purépecha as a second language, as well as literary creation workshops in Purépecha and composition of pirekuas”.

However, the vocalist of Simios Band clarifies that it is not about rescuing culture as such, but rather recovering some features that the youngest suddenly forget are theirs as natives and that also gives them identity as a social group.

In the same sense, Carlos Francisco Pedro Flores of the UIIM states that the panorama in Ihuatzio is critical, since of the people under 40 years of age, he affirms that there are few who still speak Purépecha, while those aged 30 and below are still more complex, since there are only a few who understand certain words.

Said situation, the academic points out, can also be reflected in some other communities that surround the municipality of Pátzcuaro, which he attributes to commercial situations that occurred as a consequence of the Conquest.

“After a study we carried out in Tzintzuntzan, we understood that since a large part of the indigenous economy depended on trade and having to move to Pátzcuaro to sell their products, they were forced to learn Spanish because they met consumers who They didn’t understand Purépecha.

If discrimination is added to this, Carlos Flores regrets that everything has become more complex, since he says that the idea began to spread that speaking a native language meant nothing and that if you wanted to progress, it was necessary to speak Spanish.

“Even what we call our grandparents were forced to learn Spanish to be able to communicate even with their own families, so there are cases where they have forgotten some Purépecha words because they stopped using them and no longer remember them.”

For the student of the indigenous language, it is on the islands that surround Lake Pátzcuaro where one can still find a firmer root to the Purépecha, such as those of Pacanda, Tecuena, Yunuén, Jarácuaro and the Urandenes.

The foregoing, he expresses, is due to the fact that being more isolated populations that have minimal contact with the cities, which causes them to become more jealous with their culture and therefore tend to defend it above all else.

According to data from the State Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CEDPI), in the last ten years Michoacán has lost 70 percent of its speakers of indigenous languages, putting unique, cultural knowledge at risk, historical and ecological aspects of a culture.

Likewise, in relation to the last census carried out, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) indicates that in the entity there are 128 thousand 620 people who still speak Purépecha and in the case of the 92 thousand 795 inhabitants that Pátzcuaro has, only 5 1,780 people are those who dominate an indigenous language and of that total, 5,699 are Purépecha.

A similar situation occurs in the municipality of Tzintzuntzan, since of the 14,088 inhabitants, 1,323 are those who still speak an indigenous language and of that group, 1,316 speak Purépecha.

Although the loss of the language is a reality, Carlos Flores states that, paradoxically, Purépecha is becoming fashionable, especially to be used in business or as slogans in dependencies and social programs.

However, due to ignorance, he stresses that on many occasions it is poorly written or translated, which ends up leading to another problem: the lack of a single written alphabet of the language.

“There are two predominant alphabets, so it is about using one or the other, but what we have seen even in t-shirts and other items that are put up for sale, is that it is being combined with Spanish and it is necessary to understand that the Purépecha is not write as it is heard, then many fall into this error”.

Faced with this situation, he explains that he, together with colleagues from the Purépecha Language and Culture diploma, are analyzing the possibility of opening a space in communities such as Ihuatzio to impart the correct teaching of the language.

“It is a very complex administrative process because there is a lot of paperwork that has to be handled in institutions, but beyond that and being honest, the most difficult thing is dealing with the little interest that young people have in learning Purépecha, since that from the dress we are very westernized and the mentalities have been changing”.

Carlos Flores also shows that at present this same fashion has led to a battle of egos among the inhabitants of indigenous communities, since it seems that there is a competition to see who is the most Purépecha.

He considers that there is no need to let an entire society know or demonstrate it even with clothing, “but only you should understand why you are Purépecha and what it means to be, express it proudly, but not as if it were a game”.

In this vein, he clarifies that the presence of tourists or visitors does not bother the towns, but the “folklorization” in which the communities have been placed does bother, since he argues that they are treated as if they were something exotic.

And it is that in this desire not to let the Purépecha language die, he adds that respect for indigenous culture is shown with a real interest in knowing the dynamics of an original people, understanding their dances to know how to appreciate them, how they are organized and so they understand that the value goes beyond the aesthetic.

Source: El Sol de Morelia