HISTORY OF MEXICO
An educational project of the
Houston Institute for Culture




INDIGENOUS MEXICO STATISTICS: THE 2005 CONTEO
By John P. Schmal

The results of the 2005 Mexican Conteo (Count) have been published and a comparison with the 2000 Mexican Censo (Census) indicates a decline in the overall number of Mexican citizens who speak indigenous languages. The overall number of indigenous speakers has dropped from 6,044,547 to 6,011,202 persons five years of age and older. This represented a drop in the national percentage of indigenous speakers from 7.2% to 6.7%.

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It is important to point out that the criteria in this count represents people who speak indigenous languages and that the number of Mexicans who consider themselves to be indigenous - through culture, tradition, spirit, genetics and other factors - is probably much greater in some parts of the country. Additionally, any children up to the age of four living in indigenous households are not tallied as being indigenous speakers.

Náhuatl remains the most widely spoken language in Mexico with 1,376,026 persons five years of age and older using that tongue. Náhuatl speakers, in fact, represented 22.89% of the indigenous speakers in the entire Republic in the 20005 Conteo. Some of the other prominent languages are:

2. Maya (759,000 speakers - 12.63% of all indigenous speakers)
3. Mixtec Languages (423,216 - 7.04%)
4. Zapotec Languages (410,901 - 6.84%)
5. Tzeltal (371,730 - 6.18%)
6. Tzotzil (329,937 - 5.49%)
7. Otomí (239,850 - 3.99%)

The Náhuatl, Maya, Mixtec and Zapotec languages are found in considerable numbers in many states far from their traditional homelands, in large part because of migration to the north and urban areas.

The states with the largest number of indigenous speakers are, in terms of absolute numbers and percentages, are:

1. Oaxaca (1,091,502 indigenous speakers - 35.3% of the state population)
2. Yucatán (538,355 speakers - 33.5% of the state population)
3. Chiapas (957,255 speakers - 26.1% of the state population)
4. Quintana Roo (170,982 speakers - 19.3% of the state population)
5. Hidalgo (320,029 - 15.5% of the state population)
6. Guerrero (383,427 - 14.2% of the state population)
7. Campeche (89,084 - 13.3% of the state population)
8. Puebla (548,723 - 11.7% of the state population)
9. San Luis Potosí (234,815 - 11.1% of the state population)
10. Veracruz (605,135 - 9.5% of the state population).

With the exception of the Chiapas dialects, many of the most populous indigenous languages have declined in absolute numbers, possibly due to immigration to the United States and other countries. It is also possible that many indigenous migrants who move from Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero, or Campeche to large urban areas in Mexico City or the North may have children who, in the absence of a nurturing mother culture, may tend to assimilate and perhaps stop speaking their mother tongue as they socialize and work with their non-indigenous friends, associates, and neighbors.

We continue to see large numbers of Zapotec and Mixtec speakers dominating the indigenous landscape in many western and northern states, in large part because of decades of migration from Oaxaca to other parts of the country. A long distance from their traditional lands, the Mixtecs represent significant percentages of the indigenous-speaking people in several states, including Baja California (38.2% of indigenous speakers), Baja California Sur (21.5%), Distrito Federal (10.4%), Sinaloa (10.2%) and Estado de México (6.8%).

Similarly, the Zapotecs make up significant portions of the indigenous-speaking populations of several states, including Baja California (9.6%), Baja California Sur (8.7%), Distrito Federal (8.4%), Colima (6.5%) and Sinaloa (5.6%). Nevertheless, both the Zapotec and Mixtec languages saw significant overall population drops between 2000 and 2005 and large-scale immigration to the United States is certainly a compelling factor in that trend.

In the states of the Yucatán Peninsula, the Yucatec Maya dialect continues to dominate. For example, in the State of Yucatán, there are 527,107 Maya speakers, who represent 97.9% of the total indigenous-speaking population of the state.

While many languages have declined in absolute numbers, several of the most important Mayan tongues in Chiapas actually increased between the 2000 Censo and the 2005 Conteo. The five most widely spoken languages of Chiapas have all increased in absolute numbers:

1. Tzeltal (362,658 indigenous speakers - 37.9% of the state's indigenous population)
2. Tzotzil (320,921 indigenous speakers - 33.5%)
3. Chol (161,794 speakers - 16.9%)
4. Zoque (43,936 speakers - 4.6%)
5. Tojolabal (42,798 - 4.5%)

This increase may be related to the high visibility and sense of pride that many Chiapas Indians have begun to feel towards their indigenous heritage, and, in fact, people who did not previously speak Tzotzil or Tzeltal fluently, may be learning the language to take part in the Cultural Renaissance now occurring.

The Náhuatl language continues to dominate many of the Mexican states. In Veracruz, for example, the 318,626 Náhuatl speakers make up 52.7% of the State's indigenous speakers. The other widely spoken languages in Veracruz are the Totonac (19.2%), Huasteco (8.4%), Popoluca (5.3%), and Otomí (2.8%).

The Tarahumara Indians, one of the few surviving remnants of Chihuahua's indigenous heritage, continue to represent 77.3% of Chihuahua's people who speak Indian languages. But indigenous speakers only represent 3.4% of the total state population five years of age and older.

In Sonora, the two surviving traditional languages still dominate the indigenous-speaking population: the Mayo number 24,470 people (47.3%) and the Yaqui number 13,552 people (14.7%). But, here again, the indigenous speakers represent only 2.5% of Sonora's entire population five years of age and older.

Mexico's total population increased from 97,483,412 in the 2000 Censo to 103,263,388 in the 2005 Conteo. Interestingly, women outnumber men by 51.34% by 48.66%, a telling reminder that many breadwinners may have left the country to find gainful employment elsewhere.

Below is a graphic interpretation, illustrating the contrast in the indigenous speaking populations of Mexico's states between the 2000 Censo and the 2005 Conteo:

A COMPARISON OF MEXICO'S INDIGENOUS-SPEAKING POPULATIONS BETWEEN THE 2000 CENSO AND THE 2005 CONTEO (BY STATE)
State 2000 Censo - Population of Persons Five Years of Age and More Who Speak an Indigenous Language 2000 Census - Percentage 2005 Conteo - Population of Persons Five Years of Age and More Who Speak an Indigenous Language 2005 Conteo - Percentage
Aguascalientes 1,244 0.2 2,713 0.3
Baja California 37,685 1.9 33,604 1.4
Baja California, Sur 5,353 1.4 7,095 1.6
Campeche 93,765 15.5 89,084 13.3
Coahuila de Zaragoza 3,032 0.2 5,842 0.3
Colima 2,932 0.6 2,889 0.6
Chiapas 809,592 24.7 957,255 26.1
Chihuahua 84,086 3.2 93,709 3.4
Distrito Federal 141,710 1.8 118,424 1.5
Durango 24,934 2.0 27,792 2.1
Guanajuato 10,689 0.3 10,347 0.2
Guerrero 367,110 13.9 383,427 14.2
Hidalgo 339,866 17.3 320,029 15.5
Jalisco 39,259 0.7 42,372 0.7
México 361,972 3.3 312,319 2.6
Michoacán de Ocampo 121,849 3.5 113,166 3.3
Morelos 30,896 2.3 24,757 1.8
Nayarit 37,206 4.6 41,689 5.0
Nuevo León 15,446 0.5 29,538 0.8
Oaxaca 1,120,312 37.2 1,091,502 35.3
Puebla 565,509 13.1 548,723 11.7
Querétaro Arteaga 25,269 2.1 23,363 1.7
Quintana Roo 173,592 23.1 170,982 19.3
San Luis Potosí 235,253 11.7 234,815 11.1
Sinaloa 49,744 2.2 30,459 1.3
Sonora 55,694 2.9 51,701 2.5
Tabasco 62,027 3.7 52,139 3.0
Tamaulipas 17,118 0.7 20,221 0.8
Tlaxcala 26,662 3.2 23,807 2.5
Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave 633,372 10.4 605,135 9.5
Yucatán 549,532 37.4 538,355 33.5
Zacatecas 1,837 0.2 3,949 0.3
Mexican Republic 6,044,547 7.2 6,011,202 6.7
Copyright © 2006, by John P. Schmal


Below is a second illustration indicating the evolution of Mexico's indigenous languages in terms of their total numbers within the Mexican Republic.

THE EVOLUTION OF MEXICO'S INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES FROM 1970 TO 2005
Primary Languages 1970 1990 2000 2005 2005 - % of all Indigenous Languages Spoken
Náhuatl 799,394 1,197,328 1,448,936 1,376,026 22.89%
Maya 454,675 713,520 800,291 759,000 12.63%
Mixtec Languages 233,235 386,874 446,236 423,216 7.04%
Zapoteco Languages 283,345 403,457 452,887 410,901 6.84%
Tzeltal 99,412 261,084 284,826 371,730 6.18%
Tzotzil 95,383 229,203 297,561 329,937 5.49%
Otomí 221,062 280,238 291,722 239,850 3.99%
Totonaca 124,840 207,876 240,034 230,930 3.84%
Mazateco 101,541 168,374 214,477 206,559 3.44%
Chol 73,253 128,240 161,766 185,299 3.08%
Huasteco 66,091 120,739 150,257 149,532 2.49%
Chinanteca Languages 54,145 109,100 133,374 125,706 2.09%
Mixe 54,403 95,264 118,924 115,824 1.93%
Mazahua 104,729 127,826 133,430 111,840 1.86%
Purépecha 60,411 94,835 121,409 105,556 1.76%
Tlapaneco 30,804 68,483 99,389 98,573 1.64%
Tarahumara 25,479 54,431 75,545 75,371 1.25%
Zoque 27,140 43,160 51,464 54,004 0.90%
Amuzgo 13,883 28,228 41,455 43,761 0.73%
Tojolabal 13,303 36,011 37,986 43,169 0.72%
Chatino 11,773 29,006 40,722 42,791 0.71%
Chontal ND 36,267 38,561 36,578 0.61%
Popoluca 27,818 31,254 38,477 36,406 0.61%
Huichol 6,874 19,363 30,686 35,724 0.59%
Mayo 27,848 37,410 31,513 32,702 0.54%
Tepehuano 5,617 18,469 25,544 31,681 0.53%
Cora 6,242 11,923 16,410 17,086 0.28%
Huave 7,442 11,955 14,224 15,993 0.27%
Yaqui 7,084 10,984 13,317 14,162 0.24%
Cuicateco 10,192 12,677 13,425 12,610 0.21%
Other Languages 63,997 308,768 179,699 278,685 4.64%
Total Indigenous Speakers in Mexico 3,111,415 5,282,347 6,044,547 6,011,202 100%
Copyright © 2006, by John P. Schmal


Copyright © 2007, by John P. Schmal. All rights reserved.



Source:

Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI). Conteos de Población y Vivienda, 2005.



John Schmal is an historian, genealogist, and lecturer. With his friend Donna Morales, he coauthored "Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico" (Heritage Books, 2002) and "The Dominguez Family: A Mexican-American Journey" (Heritage Books, 2004). He has degrees in History (Loyola-Marymount University) and Geography (St. Cloud State University) and is a board member of the Society of Hispanic Historical Ancestral Research (SHHAR). He is an associate editor of SHHAR's online monthly newsletter, www.somosprimos.com. John is presently collaborating with illustrator Eddie Martinez on a manuscript entitled "Indigenous Mexico: Past and Present."

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