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Indigenous Languages

San Diego State University’s privileged location next to the US/Mexico border has allowed the Center for Latin American Studies to develop a natural expertise on border issues and migrant populations in San Diego. While most migrants from Latin America speak Spanish or Portuguese, large amounts are actually native speakers of an indigenous Latin American language. In San Diego alone, there are estimated to be 25,000 people from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, many of which speak only an indigenous language such as Mixtec, Nahuatl, or Zapotec, among others. 

CLAS recognizes the need to foster communication with this large migrant community. Throughout our various language programs, we seek to preserve the indigenous culture and language by promoting a deeper understanding of the diversity of language and culture within the Latin American context..

Our commitment to the survival of indigenous languages is shown through our academic language offerings. In addition to our summer immersion programs where students have the opportunity to learn Mixtec or Zapotec in Oaxaca, Mexico. CLAS also teaches Mixtec, Zapotec, and Nahuatl on a semester basis.

The Mixtec community is one of the third largest native groups of Mexico. They call themselves the Ñuu Savi (People of the Rain). Their homeland is the Mixteca, a region which occupies the western half of the Mexican state of Oaxaca and small parts of Guerrero, Puebla, and Vera Cruz. 

The story of the Mixtecs is one of movement. They migrate from the Mixteca into other parts of the Mexican republic, as well as to the United States, seeking work primarily in the agricultural sector. 

Mixtec Cultural Discovery Box Artifacts

A Cultural Discovery Box is a collection of artifacts, photos, map, posters, book, etc., assembled for the purpose of introducing K-12 students to a culture unfamiliar to them.

Download the artifacts slideshow.

Courses Offered

Elementary Mixtec I (LATAM 110)
Mixtec language and culture. Pronunciation, oral practice, reading, and listening comprehension and essentials of grammar in a communicative context and through task-based activities. Not open to students who have completed three years of high school Mixtec unless the third course was completed five or more years ago. Not open to students with credit in Latin American Studies 111.

Elementary Mixtec II (LATAM 111)
Continuation of Latin American Studies 110. Development of increased proficiency in Mixtec language and culture. Pronunciation, oral practice, listening comprehension, reading and writing, and grammar in a communicative context and through task-based activities.

Intermediate Mixtec 1 (LATAM 210)
Further development of speaking and writing skills, both extended to discourse level and with emphasis on language of everyday life. Integrated approach to learning Mixtec to include awareness and appreciation of the Mixtec culture.

Courses Offered

Elementary Zapotec I (LATAM 120)
Zapotec language and culture. Pronunciation, oral practice, reading, listening comprehension, and essentials of grammar. Not open to students who have completed three years of high school Zapotec unless the third course was completed five or more years ago.

Courses Offered

Elementary Nahuatl I (LATAM 296)
Introduction to Modern Huastecan Nahuatl language and culture. Language proficiency and culture competence to include listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing at a basic level and ability to interact in common life situations.

Meet Our Instructors

Our language instructors are native speakers with vast knowledge on the cultural and linguistic nuances of the languages they teach.

Angelina Trujillo teaches the Mixtec course that San Diego State University offers every semester. She is originally from Ixpantepec Nieves, Oaxaca. She collaborates with many community organizations and also serves as a legal interpreter for Mixtec speaking individuals who need help communicating in the health care and legal system. Her knowledge on indigenous history, language, and current community struggles on both sides of the border, provides our students a current understanding of the struggles that indigenous migrants face on a daily basis.

Marcos Cruz Bautista, M.A. is a Mixtec instructor and Linguist, and Professor of our Mixtec Summer immersion Program in Oaxaca, Mexico. He studied at Mexico's Universidad Pedagógica Nacional in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca (UPN). He is the author of the book Esbozo gramatical de la lengua Mixteca where he analyzes the Mixtec language.

Juan Julián Caballero, Ph.D. also teaches our Mixtec Summer Abroad Programs in Oaxaca. Dr. Julián Caballero received his Master of Education in Indigenous Education from the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, Unidad Ajusco, in México, D. F.. He went on to study his Doctorate in Indigenous American Studies at the Leiden University in Holland. As a linguist and academic advisor for indigenous education, Dr. Julián Caballero served as Adjunct Professor for the Professional Development in Ethnolinguistics program at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social in Tlaxcala. He is currently researching and publishing on topics related to ethnic relationships, community identity, and intercultural education.