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Language and identity are political acts that are inextricably linked to and rooted in socio-historical and socio-political events. Existing scholarship on identity-based social movements has yet to address language activism as a part of its theoretical framework. This paper seeks to consider the unique socio-historical context of indigenismo—an ideological wave coordinated by non-Indigenous groups seeking to define Indigenous identity—for the analysis of language activism within the field of social movement theory. Drawing from historical, ethnographic, and applied linguistic studies, this article examines indigenismo in Abiayala—the continental Western hemisphere commonly referred to as the Americas—to highlight the impact of the policies enacted by Indigenistas on existing linguistic ideologies. Given the significance of Mexico’s indigenismo in this transhemispheric region, having as a model for policies enacted in other regions, the Mexican nation-state is chosen as the thematic focus of the discussion presented here. The goals of this paper are to explore: 1) indigenismo in Mexico, 2) the link between language attitudes and indigenismo in Mexico, and 3) language activism in Mexico. The resulting analysis proposes a need for a new social movement theory that considers the impact of neoliberalism on Indigenous communities in Abiayala. Future research should also consider the impact of globalization on intergenerational linguistic ideologies and transnational language activism programs.

Publication Date

Spring 2021




Indigenismo; Language activism; Mexico; Abiayala


Linguistic Anthropology

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942 KB


Faculty Mentor: Ivan Sandoval-Cervantes, Ph.D.

“Our Languages Do Not Die, They are Being Killed”: Indigenismo and its Effects on Indigenous Language Revitalization