(The speech footage and B-roll are both on my Twitter page @jomareefndz)
Sarah Lowman is revealing the truth about the lives of the Nahua indigenous people of Latin America to University of Georgia students, speaking on their struggles with their identity and with interacting with the Mexican government.
Lowman, a Latin American literature professor and a doctoral student at the University of Georgia, partnered with Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity Inc. to host 24 students for a 45-minute lecture about Nahuatl, the language of the Nahua people, and how the Nahua have used their language and culture for activism.
Lowman’s dissertation research is on the intersection of environmental activism and Nahua cultural activism through literature and language in present-day Mexico, and she used this research as the basis of her lecture. While conflicts between the Nahua and the Mexican government have occurred for a while, Lowman said that activism amongst the Nahua has become increasingly more successful since the rise of controversial literature in both Nahuatl and Spanish in the 1980s as more people in Mexico began to be more outspoken about their indigenous heritage and speak out against the oppression from the Mexican government.
Another point that Lowman talked about in her lecture was the oppression of the Nahua people through the monolingual teachings enforced by the Mexican government. Many Nahua today are losing their language or can only say some words in Nahuatl because the government has continued to enforce Spanish-only teaching in schools, something that resonated with audience member Lexus Marion. Marion, a third-year marketing major at the University of Georgia, said, “Spanish is not the only language spoken in Central America today and there are many native languages and dialects that are still used and it’s important to keep these languages alive to prevent cultural decay.”
Even with the oppressive practices taking place, Lowman did reassure the audience members that things have been changing for the Nahua, saying that bilingual teaching initiatives are being adopted and that, “Despite efforts to divert indigenous activism regarding land and environmental rights…the constitutional reforms of 2001 created an opening for dialogue about environmental issues affecting the indigenous community such as land rights, agricultural and food sovereignty, and resource management.”
For more information on the Nahua, Lowman hosts the Nahuatl Study Group on campus on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.