El Salvador: Rescuing the past…

El Salvador is not necessarily the first country to come to mind when you talk about indigenous cultures in Central America, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing there, either. There are. And if the indigenous language is the mark of that culture, then it’s been looking pretty grim, with only some two hundred Nawat (Nahuatl) speakers left in a culture that calls itself ‘Pipil’…

This was the language of the Mexica ‘Aztec’ empire, so any culture or language prior to that has been lost in the shuffle. Next-door-neighbor Guatemala, THE most indigenous culture of Central America, has no Nahuatl speakers–plenty of Mayans, but no Mexica, FWIW. They provide most ‘traditional’ costume to the Salvadorans now, similar to the ones I used to supply to hippies back in 1980. I have been to El Salvador since then, and last trip to Guate was a decade ago…

I’m not sure which is first to go, and which is last, traditional costume or language, but it’s a losing battle, as many peoples have long ago become assimilated. And if that was once a happy prospect at the possibilities of increased income, today it is grim, since they are a living link to a culture that knows how to survive, where our modern consumptive and destructive ‘winning’ culture doesn’t…

So their culture is dying–or is it? Recent surveys indicate as many as 3000 Nawat speakers, a large increase over that earlier estimate of 200. Is that because of better methodologies, more willingness to ‘come out’, or a genuine revival of interest in the old ways and the old traditions? Preliminary reports are that most of the speakers are young, so fingers are crossed. Time will tell…

Advertisements