Most Americans probably are not aware of the hostility that indigenous Mexicans and Mestizos feel at home. Integrating into American society is no less difficult, but probably more rewarding, than what they face at home.

After centuries of near-total neglect of those “Indios” who maintained their indigenous language and traditions, the Mexican educational system established in the 1920s, after the Revolution, officially recognized that these languages existed and declared that they needed to be wiped out.Called “castellanizaci√≥n,” or “Spanishization,” this policy called for a system of Spanish-only schools in indigenous communities that would ease the assimilation of these poorest and most marginalized of Mexico’s peasants into the Mestizo culture.

According to Sylvia Schmelkes, head of the Department of Bilingual and Intercultural Education for Mexico’s federal education system, this educational model gave way, roughly in the middle of the 20th century, to a different approach.

“Teachers started to work with the indigenous language as a tool to help them achieve speaking Spanish,” she said. By the 1970s, Schmelkes said, a separate system of bilingual schools was created, whose objective was “to achieve an integral bilingualism, a fluency in both languages.”

“But many teachers still follow the old philosophies,” she said.

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