Endangered Language Alliance


Election day eve

As a registered non-profit organization, ELA cannot endorse political candidates, nor did we want to add to the ceaseless chatter during what felt like an eternal campaign here in the US. But there have been some points that we cannot in good conscience ignore without comment. In particular, one campaign has ruthlessly targeted Mexican immigrants as the root of this country’s economic problems. It would be cowardly, even at this late juncture, for us not to publicly defend our many indigenous Mexican collaborators who are among the first peoples of this continent and who have suffered untold horrors at the hands of a wide variety of malefactors, from the conquistadors to a neighbor who portrays them as the worst kinds of criminals while they merely struggle to survive.

It is no exaggeration that the multi-billion dollar service economy of New York City stays afloat largely on the back of indigenous Mexican labor under some of the worst working conditions in the US.

It is important to consider how and why our indigenous friends from Mexico and Guatemala ended up working in these conditions so far away from home.

After thousands of years of thriving agriculture, farming in Mexico has ceased to provide a viable livelihood. Climate change, overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, trade treaties such as NAFTA, the imposition of GMOs, and now gun violence from drug wars, have all conspired to make life unlivable. Sadly, every one of these destabilizing factors has been largely, if not completely, introduced from the North.

Mahmoud Darwish’s ‘On man’, could have just as well been written for those who have been savaged by one man’s campaign this election season:

They gagged his mouth,
Bound his hands to the rock of the dead
And said: Murderer!
They took his food, clothes and banners,
Cast him into the condemned cell
And said: Thief!
They drove him away from every port,
Took his young sweetheart,
Then said: Refugee!

As the Sioux and their allies are fighting to put an end to the theft of their land at Standing Rock at this very moment, it is important that we think about the displacement of indigenous people in its widest context this election day. This should include condemning the demonization of indigenous immigrants.

Our friend and collaborator, Zenaida Cantu, Me’phaa poet, sums it up best:

Ri mbrutu ika mbo ahun
gwa’da tsitsiya magajnu gini

Discrimination is the only weapon the mediocre can use to excel!

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