Lenguas originarias de México

Una muestra de la inmensidad de México es su diversidad cultural, expresada aquí a través de las lenguas originarias del país. Existen siete ramas aisladas de las que derivan más de medio centenar de lenguas además de tres importantes lenguas más aisladas. Algunas muertas, otras con más de un millón de personas hablándola.



Lenguas Otomangueanas

La familia lingüística otomangueana está presente en el centro y sur de México por lo menos desde el año 2000 a. C. Su historia y extensión han dado como resultado una notable divergencia lingüística entre los grupos que la componen.

El diagrama muestra las dos vertientes del Otomangue: el oriental y occidental. De éstas derivan más de veinte variantes lingüísticas adicionales. Las más grandes son el Tlapaneco, Otomí, Mazahua, Zapoteco, Mixteco y el Mazateco. El número* de personas que hablan cada lengua es reflejado en el grueso de los nodos, habiendo al menos cinco lenguas muertas y otras siete en peligro de extinción.



Lenguas Yuto-Azteca

Madre de las importantes lenguas Nahuatl, Trahumara, Yaqui, Mayo y Huichol. También madre de las lenguas muertas Pochuteco, Ópata, Tubar, Eudeve y Tepecano. Una lengua que tiene tres ramas vivas. La rama dominante es el “Carachol-Aztecano”, tanto el Nahuatl (la lengua más hablada entre todas las lenguas) como el Huichol son escisiones de ella. Taracachita tiene a su vez tres ramificaciones, dos de mediano tamaño y una vertiente extinta.



Lenguas Mayenses

Con un grado de diversificación que sugiere antigüedad pentamilenaria. De compleja escritura, en parte logográfica y en parte silábica. Ubicada principalmente en el sur de México, Belice y Guatemala, el maya es un complejo conjunto de lenguas vivas. Tres de sus cinco ramas principales tienen poblaciones importantes, siendo el maya yucateco la segunda lengua más hablada en el país.



Lenguas Hokanas

Esta rama agrupa numerosas lenguas habladas en las zonas áridas del noroeste de México. La mayor parte de las lenguas hokanas están extintas o se encuentran cerca de desaparecer.



Lenguas Toto-Zoqueanas

Esta familia de lenguas constituye la unión de las subfamilias lingüísticas totonaco-tepehua y mixe-zoque. El primer grupo es formado por siete lenguas y hablado por los totonacos. Se habla en la Sierra Madre Oriental, principalmente entre los estados de Veracruz y Puebla, por alrededor de 200 mil habitantes. Por su parte las lenguas mixe-zoqueanas, son habladas en el istmo de Tehuantepec, la Sierra de Juárez y el occidente de Chiapas.



Lenguas Varias



*El número de personas ha sido reconvertido con una escala logarítmica, preservando así sus propiedades de monotonicidad, con fines de visualización.


Homicides in Mexico and a 10-year-old war on drugs


Homicides are one of the most violent manifestations of breakups in the social structure. While not all homicides are intentional, many are and these are the focus of this analysis.

Homicides respond to different dynamics and forces, in Mexico, many of these respond to drug cartel pressures. This can be seen in the map above -which plots homicide rates in each  municipality (2456) for 2015. Murder rates are palpably higher in three areas well known to be linked to drug trafficking: two related to the US border and one in the central Pacific region (a spot through which precursors for manufacturing of synthetic drugs come into the country from Asia, mainly from China).

Homicide rates tend to be higher in regions disputed by more than one cartel. This why the policy to militarily dissolve the cartels often leads to spirals of violence. This approach destabilizes the long term equilibrium  of territorial distribution by weakening incumbent cartels. As a consequence of this,  new groups emerge and contest the domain of a particular region.

This is one reason that explains why the approach to drugs that the Mexican government decided to follow ten years ago has fatally failed. This failure can be measured in a number of ways: by the number of lives lost; the loss of economic opportunities; forced migration; budget devoted to the military and security rather than to socially valuable public goods, and so on. Under no metric does the social benefits brought by this strategy surpass its enormous social costs.

In the meantime, many countries have made strong steps to revert their policies towards more flexible drug production and consumption laws to treat the matter exclusively as a public health issue while taxing its consumption. There should be no doubt that the prohibitionist approach to drugs has been unequally enforced in different parts of the world. However, this gives more freedom to Mexico for reflecting about where it’s going and which path it wants to take in the future.





Stratification of Poverty in Mexico


In Mexico, 80% of its population is deprived of at least one basic social and economic life dimension. Poverty in Mexico, regardless of how one measures it, is a widespread phenomenon that has grown on a par with population.

The poverty measure employed here focuses on seven categories, one of which is income, four others are cutoff indexes indicating whether individuals have access to health, education, food and social security and two others related to the quality of housing and access to basic housing services (such as running water or electricity). With these categories, a classification scheme for multidimensional poverty is constructed:

  • Extreme Multidimensional Poverty: Income below the necessary income to afford the most basics of life and being deprived of three or more dimensions.
  • Multidimensional Poverty: Income below the necessary income to afford the basics of life and being deprived of one dimension.

Distribution of poverty 2014 - Coneval - 3

Despite this graph showing data of 2014, if one explores previews data it will find that little has changed in the composition of poverty over time. This is highly problematic as only one in five Mexicans live out of poverty hinting to the fact that social mobility is close to nonexistent.

Intergenerational transmission of social and economic conditions is perhaps in the core of understanding Mexico’s economic underperformance. When intergenerational transmission of poverty is elevated, many high skilled individuals will not fully materialize their potential and thus their contribution to society will be suboptimal. Thus, the degree at which individual’s social and economic development level is shaped by non-individual decisions partially determines how resources and opportunities are allocated. This in turn affects long run economic dynamics.

How we understand poverty can importantly influence how we come to measure it, how we analyse it and how we create policies to fight it. Poverty in Mexico is a critical social problem that Mexican governments have widely ignored and failed to tackle.

by Diego de la Fuente


Note: Data on poverty gathered from Coneval 2014.

Poverty in Mexico II


Foto-post-mexicoMexico’s deep roots of poverty which have been systematically ignored by both the political and social spheres throughout its history.  Over 23 million people live with an insufficient income to buy the minimum basket of food, even if they disposed all their income to do so; over 60 million cannot afford the minimum basket of goods and services.

Poverty is unevenly distributed across the population: with the indigenous, the rural and the youth populations being the most severely affected. In terms of the multidimensional poverty measure elaborated by CONEVAL which captures income together with six other indicators (access to food, edu
cation, housing, health and social security and basic services -such as water and sewage-), in the year 2012, poverty affected:

  • 72.2% of the indigenous population (vs. 42.6% of the non-indigenous population).
  • 61.6% of the rural population (vs. 40.6% of the urban population).
  • 53.8% of the under 18 years old (vs. 40.7% of the population between 18 and 65 years).

Poverty is hard to contextualize because more than a concept it is a way of life that is suffered distinctly across populations: in the rural and urban areas, by different age groups, across sexes, regions, climates, cultures, and so on. Some additional numbers should serve to make the point.



    • Illiteracy rates are over four times higher than for the rest of the population, with 27% of the indigenous suffering it.
    • According to UNICEF, 33.2% of under 5 years old presented stunted growth.
    • Mortality rate for indigenous children is over 60% higher than for the general population.


    • According to CONAPO, in the mainly rural state of Chiapas (58% of the population live in towns with 5,000 or less inhabitants): 37% of the population did not finish primary (elementary) school, 70% earn an income below two minimum wages, 25% live in housing with dirt floor, 18% cannot read or write.
    • In the state of Guerrero (49.7% of the population live in towns with 5,000 or less inhabitants): over 20% of the population lived without access to sewage, 29.8% didn’t have access to tubed water, 20% lived in dirt floor housing, 17% cannot read or write.

Children and youth:

The problem of children is as obscure as those of the other groups but in a different way.

    • infantil3According to INEGI, around three million Mexicans between 5 and 17 years old work (12.5% of the total), of which more than two thirds are boys. Of these, 44% do not receive an income, 28% earn an income below the minimum wage and only 8% earn more than 2 minimum wages for their work.
    • Furthermore, over 40% of these children work to complement family income or work; over 25% do so to pay for schooling materials and own expenses and only 5.1% did so to avoid schooling.

In Mexico, life is much harder for some that for others. However, it is striking is to find that poverty in Mexico is, more often than not, the result of exclusion. Looking at the level of need that large groups of the population have points towards the cyclical transmission of the problem across generations.

Paradoxically, the missing component for the country’s long waited economic flourishing lies precisely in whether the country is capable or not of unleashing individual potential across every group of society. Giving opportunities for development to the population would not only create a more just society but a much more dynamic one too.

by Diego de la Fuente