Watch 36 Short Animations That Tell the Origin Stories of Mexico’s Indigenous Peoples in Their Own Languages




In our efforts to preserve endangered species we seem to overlook something equally important. To me it is a sign of a deeply disturbed civilization where tree huggers and whale huggers in their weirdness are acceptable while no one embraces the last speakers of a language.

 – Werner Herzog, Encounters at the End of the World

Trees and whales aside, we suspect the ever quotable Herzog would warm to fellow director Gabriela Badillo’s 68 Voices, 68 Hearts, a series of one-minute animations that preserve indigenous Mexican stories with narration provided by native speakers.

“It was created in order to help foster pride, respect, and the use of indigenous Mexican languages between speakers and non-speakers, as well as to help reduce discrimination and foster a sense of pride towards all communities and cultures that are part of the cultural richness that makes up Mexico,” Badillo says in an interview with Awasqa.




The project stemmed from a realization in the wake of the death of her grandfather, a Maxcanu from Yucatan:

Aside from losing a loved one, I realized that an enormous wisdom had also been lost: a language, stories, traditions and customs, a whole world had dissolved with him.

Each animation involves collaboration with the National Institute of Indigenous Language and the community whose story is being shared. Community members choose the subject, then supply narration and translation. Their children draw scenes from the selected story, which steers the style of animation.

Prior to being released to the general public, each film is presented to its community of origin, along with a booklet of suggested educational activities for parents and teachers to use in conjunction with screenings. Boxes of postcards featuring artwork from the series are donated to the community school.

Some of the entries, like the above About Earthquakes and the Origin of Life on Earth, narrated in Ch’ol by Eugenia Cruz Montejo, pack a massive amount of story into the allotted minute:

They say many years ago Ch’ujtiat, the Heaven’s lord, created the Earth with 12 immortal men to carry it. And it is when they get tired that the Earth moves, provoking earthquakes.

At the same time he created the first men, who were ungrateful, so Ch’ujtiat sent the flood and turned the survivors into monkeys, and the innocent children into stars. He then created our first parents, na’al, Ixic y Xun’Ok, who multiplied and populated the Earth. 

That’s how life on Earth began.That’s how the Ch’oles tell it.

Variants of “that’s how we tell it” are a common refrain, as in the Cora (also known as Náayeri) story of how the Mother Goddess created earth (and other gods), narrated by Pedro Muñiz López.

Here is the written version, in Cora:

E’itɨ tiuséijre cháanaka

Yaapú ti’nyúukari tɨkɨn a’najpú ɨtyáj náimi ajnáana Náasisaa, Téijkame jemín ɨ cháanaka ajtá ɨ máxkɨrai, góutaaguaka’a ɨ tabóujsimua yaati’xáata tɨkɨn mata’a já guatéchaɨn majtá tyuipuán iyakúi cháanaka japuá.

Muxáj kɨmenpú góutaaguaka’a tɨ’kí nájkɨ’ta gojoutyájtua. Áuna me’séira aɨjme taboujsimua matákua’naxɨ.

Tɨ’kí aɨjna tanáana Náasisaa, ukɨpuapú guatákɨɨnitya’a, yán guajaikagua’xɨjre uyóujmua matɨ’jmí jetsán guatyáakɨ yán miye’ntiné tajapuá. Kapú aɨn jé’i, matákua’naxɨ máj akábibɨɨ yán juté’e, makaupɨxɨɨ ujetsé matɨ’jmí chuéj kɨj tentyóu metya’úrara, ajtá ɨ Taja’as xu’rabe’táana tiuɨrɨj tyautyájtua ajpúi tanáana Náasisaa tsíikɨri guatyákɨstaka ukɨpuá kɨmen. Japuanpú aɨjna chuéj utíajka tɨ’kí goutaíjte aɨjme tabóujsimua guatáijte máj atapa’tsaren metya’tanya’tɨkɨ’káa ayaapú tiutéjbe máj tiunéitan.

Ayaapú tiuséijre cháanaka. Ayáj tigua’nyúukari Náayeri.

Badillo’s educational mission is well served by one of our favorites, The Origin of the Mountains. In addition to mountains, this Cucapá story, narrated by Inocencia González Sainz, delves into the origin of oceans and the Colorado River, though fair warning—it may be difficult to restore classroom order once the students hear that testicles and earwax figure prominently.

To watch a playlist of the 36 animations completed so far with English subtitles, click here.

68 Voices, 68 Heart’s Kickstarter page has more information about this ongoing project. Contributions will go toward animating stories in the three languages that are at the highest risk of disappearing—AkatekoPopoloca, and Ku’ahl.

As Badillo writes:

When a language disappears, not only a sound, a way of writing, a letter or a word goes away. Something much deeper than just a form of communication disappears – a way of seeing and conceiving the world, stories, tales, a way of naming and relating to things, an enormous knowledge that we should relearn because of its deep respect with nature.

via Boing Boing

Related Content: 

200+ Films by Indigenous Directors Now Free to View Online: A New Archive Launched by the National Film Board of Canada

Peruvian Scholar Writes & Defends the First Thesis Written in Quechua, the Main Language of the Incan Empire

Optical Scanning Technology Lets Researchers Recover Lost Indigenous Languages from Old Wax Cylinder Recordings

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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