Islam in Mexico: The Indigenous Peoples will become the Future Indigenous Muslims in Mexico (Zapotecs and Mayans but NOT Aztecs – Nahuatl and their Mestizo Mexican Descendants)
The Indigenous peoples of Mexico (Spanish: pueblos indígenas de México), Native Americans in Mexico, or Mexican Indians (Spanish: indios mexicanos) are those who are part of communities that trace their roots back to populations and communities that existed in what is now Mexico prior to the arrival of Europeans.
According to the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas, or CDI in Spanish) and the INEGI (official census institute), in 2015 25,694,928 people in Mexico self-identify as being indigenous. of many different ethnic groups, which constitute 21.5% of Mexico’s population.
Rights of indigenous peoples
List of rights
The Spanish crown had legal protections of indigenous as individuals as well as their communities, including establishing a separate General Indian Court. The mid-nineteenth century liberal reform removed those, so that there was equality of individuals before Mexican law. The creation of a national identity not linked to racial or ethnic identity was an aim of Mexican liberalism.
In the late twentieth century there has been a push for indigenous rights and a recognition of indigenous cultural identity. According to the constitutional reform of 2001, the following rights of indigenous peoples are recognized:
- acknowledgement as indigenous communities, right to self-ascription, and the application of their own regulatory systems
- preservation of their cultural identity, land, consultation and participation
- access to the jurisdiction to the state and to development
- recognition of indigenous peoples and communities as subject of public law
- self-determination and self-autonomy
- remunicipalization for the advancement of indigenous communities
- administer own forms of communication and media
During the early colonial era in central Mexico, Spaniards were more interested in having access to indigenous labor than in ownership of land. The institution of the encomienda, a crown grant of the labor of particular indigenous communities to individuals was a key element of the imposition of Spanish rule, with the land tenure of indigenous communities continuing largely in its preconquest form. The Spanish crown initially kept intact the indigenous sociopolitical system of local rulers and land tenure, with the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire eliminating the superstructure of rule, replacing it with Spanish. The crown had several concerns about the encomienda. First was that the holders of encomiendas, called encomenderos were becoming too powerful, essentially a seigneurial group that might challenge crown power (as shown in the conspiracy by conqueror Hernán Cortés‘s legitimate son and heir. Second was that the encomenderos were monopolizing indigenous labor to the exclusion of newly arriving Spaniards. And third, the crown was concerned about the damage to the indigenous vassals of the crown and their communities by the institution. Through the New Laws of 1542, the crown sought to phase out the encomienda and replace it with another crown mechanism of forced indigenous labor, known as the repartimiento. Indigenous labor was no longer monopolized by a small group of privileged encomienda holders, but rather labor was apportioned to a larger group of Spaniards. Natives performed low-paid or underpaid labor for a certain number of weeks or months on Spanish enterprises.
The land of indigenous peoples is used for material reasons as well as spiritual reasons. Religious, cultural, social, spiritual, and other events relating to their identity are also tied to the land. Indigenous people use collective property so that the aforementioned services that the land provides are available to the entire community and future generations. This was a stark contrast to the viewpoints of colonists that saw the land purely in an economic way where land could be transferred between individuals. Once the land of the indigenous people and therefore their livelihood was taken from them, they became dependent on those that had land and power. Additionally, the spiritual services that the land provided were no longer available and caused a deterioration of indigenous groups and cultures.
Colonial-era racial categories and post-independence
The Spanish legal system divided racial groups into two basic categories, the República de Españoles, consisting of all non-indigenous but initially white Spaniards and black Africans, and the República de Indios. As there was greater intermixture and resulting offspring, a more formal casta system came into place, with specific terms for different racial mixtures. This system gave more political and social power to Spaniards so that Indigenous people and blacks could be kept in lower positions. When the ethnic origins of the person were not known, phenotypic characteristics were relied upon to determine the status of the individual. Those that were in lower statuses had to pay more to the crown.
When Mexico gained independence in 1821, the casta system was eliminated as a legal structure, but racial divides remained. White Mexican argued about what the solution was to the Indian Problem, that is indigenous who continued to live in communities and were not integrated politically or socially as citizens of the new republic. The Mexican constitution of 1824 has several articles pertaining to indigenous peoples. The second article of the constitution of Mexico recognizes and enforces the right of indigenous peoples and communities to self-determination and therefore their autonomy to:
V. Preserve and improve their habitat as well as preserve the integrity of their lands in accordance with this constitution. VI. Be entitled to the estate and land property modalities established by this constitution and its derived legislation, to all private property rights and communal property rights as well as to use and enjoy in a preferential way all the natural resources located at the places which the communities live in, except those defined as strategic areas according to the constitution. The communities shall be authorized to associate with each other in order to achieve such goals.‘
Under the Mexican government, some indigenous people had land rights under ejido and agrarian communities. Under ejidos, indigenous communities have usufruct rights of the land. Indigenous communities choose to do this when they do not have the legal evidence to claim the land. In 1992, shifts were made to the economic structure and ejidos could now be partitioned and sold. For this to happen, the PROCEDE program was established. The PROCEDE program surveyed, mapped, and verified the ejido lands. This privatization of land undermined the economic base of the indigenous communities much like the taking of their land during colonization.
The history of linguistic rights in Mexico began when Spanish first made contact with Indigenous Languages during the colonial period. During the early sixteenth century mestizaje, mixing of races of culture, led to mixing of languages as well. The Spanish Crown proclaimed Spanish to be the language of the empire; however, indigenous languages were used during conversion of individuals to Catholicism. Because of this, indigenous languages were more widespread than Spanish from 1523-1581. During the late sixteenth century, the status of Spanish language increased.
By the seventeenth century, the elite minority were Spanish speakers. After independence in 1821 there was a shift to Spanish to legitimize the Mexican Spanish created by the Mexican criollos. Since then, indigenous tongues were discriminated against and seen as not modern. The nineteenth century brought with it programs to provide bilingual education at primary levels where they would eventually transition to Spanish only education. Linguistic uniformity was sought out to strengthen national identity; however, this left indigenous languages out of power structures.
The Chiapas conflict of 1994 led to collaboration between the Mexican government and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, an indigenous political group. In 1996 the San Andrés Larráinzar Accords were negotiated between the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and the Mexican government. The San Andres accords were the first time that indigenous rights were acknowledged by the Mexican government. The San Andres Accords did not explicitly state language but language was involved in matters involving culture and education.
In 2001, the constitution of Mexico was changed to acknowledge indigenous peoples and grant them protection. The second article of the constitution of Mexico recognizes and enforces the right of indigenous peoples and communities to self-determination and therefore their autonomy to:
- Preserve and enrich their language, knowledge, and every part of their culture and identity.
In 2003, the General Law on Linguistic Rights of Indigenous People explicitly stated the protection of individual and collective linguistic rights of indigenous peoples. The final section also sanctioned the creation of a National Institute for Indigenous Languages (INALI) whose purpose is to promote the growth of indigenous languages in Mexico.
However, there has been a lack of enforcement of the law. For example, the General Law on Linguistic Rights of Indigenous People guarantees the right to a trial in the language of indigenous peoples with someone who understands their culture. According to the National Human Rights Commission (Mexico), Mexico has not abided by this law. Examples of this include Jacinta Francisca Marcial, an indigenous woman who was imprisoned for kidnapping in 2006. After three years and the assistance of Amnesty International she was released for lack of evidence.
Additionally, the General Law on Linguistics also guarantees bilingual and intercultural education. However, it is a common complaint that teachers do not know the indigenous language or do not prioritize teaching the indigenous language. In fact, some studies argue that formal education has decreased the prevalence of indigenous languages.
Some parents do not teach their children their indigenous language and some children refuse to learn their indigenous language for fear that they will be discriminated against. Scholars argue that there needs to be a social change to elevate the status of indigenous languages in order for the law to be withheld so that indigenous languages are protected.
Rights of indigenous women
Indigenous women are often taken advantage of because they are women, indigenous, and often poor. Indigenous culture has been used as a pretext for Mexican government to enact laws that deny human rights to women such as the right to own land. Additionally, violence against women has been regarded by the Mexican government as a cultural practice. The government has enforced impunity of the exploitation of indigenous women by its own government[clarification needed] including by the military.
The EZLN accepted a Revolutionary Law for Women on March 8, 1993. The law is not fully enforced but shows solidarity between the indigenous movement and women. The Mexican government has increased militarization of indigenous areas which makes women more susceptible to harassment through military abuses.
Indigenous women are forming many organizations to support each other, improve their position in society, and gain financial independence. Indigenous women use national and international legislation to support their claims that go against cultural norms such as domestic violence.
Reproductive justice is an important issue to indigenous communities because there is a lack of development in these areas and is less access to maternal care. Conditional cash transfer programs such as Oportunidades have been used to encourage indigenous women to seek formal health care.
The number of indigenous Mexicans is judged using the political criteria found in the 2nd article of the Mexican constitution. The Mexican census does not report racial-ethnicity but only the cultural-ethnicity of indigenous communities that preserve their indigenous languages, traditions, beliefs, and cultures.
The Law of Linguistic Rights of the Indigenous Languages recognizes 62 indigenous languages as “national languages” which have the same validity as Spanish in all territories where they are spoken. According to the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Data Processing (INEGI), approximately 6.7% of the population speaks an indigenous language. That is, less than half of those identified as indigenous. 6,695,228 people 5 years or older were tallied as indigenous-language speakers in the 2010 census, an increase of about 650,000 from the 2000 census. In 2000, 6,044,547 people 5 years or older spoke an indigenous language.
In previous censuses, information on the indigenous speaking population five years of age and older was obtained from the Mexican people. However, in the 2010 census, this approach was changed and the Government also began to collect data on people 3 years and older because from the age of 3, children are able to communicate verbally. With this new approach, it was determined that there were 6,913,362 people 3 years of age or more who spoke an indigenous language (218,000 children 3 and 4 four years of age fell into this category), accounting for 6.6% of the total population. The population of children aged 0 to 2 years in homes where the head of household or a spouse spoke an indigenous language was 678 954. The indigenous language speaking population has been increasing in absolute numbers for decades, but have nonetheless been falling in proportion to the national population.
The recognition of indigenous languages and the protection of indigenous cultures is granted not only to the ethnic groups indigenous to modern-day Mexican territory, but also to other North American indigenous groups that migrated to Mexico from the United States in the nineteenth century and those who immigrated from Guatemala in the 1980s.
The five states with the largest indigenous-language-speaking populations are:
- Oaxaca, with 1,165,186 indigenous language speakers, accounting for 34.2% of the state’s population.
- Chiapas, with 1,141,499 indigenous language speakers, accounting for 27.2% of the state’s population.
- Veracruz, with 644,559 indigenous language speakers, accounting for 9.4% the state’s population.
- Puebla, with 601,680 indigenous language speakers, accounting for 11.7% of the state’s population.
- Yucatán, with 537,516 indigenous language speakers, accounting for 30.3% of the state’s population.
These five states accounted for 61.1% of all indigenous language speakers in Mexico. Most indigenous Mexicans do not speak their own languages and speak only Spanish. This is reflected in these five states’ populations. Although Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, Puebla, and Yucatán have 34.2%, 27.2%, 9.4%, 11.7%, and 30.3% of their populations speaking an indigenous language, these states’ indigenous populations are 65.73%, 36.15%, 29.25%, 35.28%, 65.4% respectively.
According to the National Commission for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples (CDI), there were 25,694,928 indigenous people reported in Mexico in 2015, which constitutes 21.5% of the population of Mexico. This is a significant increase from the 2010 census, in which indigenous Mexicans accounted for 14.9% of the population, and numbered 15,700,000 Most indigenous communities have a degree of financial, political autonomy under the legislation of “usos y costumbres“, which allows them to regulate internal issues under customary law.
The indigenous population of Mexico has in recent decades increased both in absolute numbers as-well as a percentage of the population. This is largely due to increased self-identification as indigenous, as-well as indigenous women having higher birth rates as compared to the Mexican average. Indigenous peoples are more likely to live in more rural areas, than the Mexican average, but many do reside in urban or suburban areas, particularly, in the central states of Mexico, Puebla, Tlaxcala, the Federal District and the Yucatán Peninsula.
According to the CDI, the states with the greatest percentage of indigenous population are: Yucatán, with 65.40%, Quintana Roo with 44.44% and Campeche with 44.54% of the population being indigenous, most of them Maya; Oaxaca with 65.73% of the population, the most numerous groups being the Mixtec and Zapotec peoples; Chiapas has 36.15%, the majority being Tzeltal and Tzotzil Maya; Hidalgo with 36.21%, the majority being Otomi; Puebla with 35.28%, and Guerrero with 33.92%, mostly Nahua people and the states of San Luis Potosí and Veracruz both home to a population of 19% indigenous people, mostly from the Totonac, Nahua and Teenek (Huastec) groups.
The majority of the indigenous population is concentrated in the central and southern states. According to the CDI, the states with the greatest percentage of indigenous population as of 2015 are:
- Oaxaca, 65.73%
- Yucatán, 65.40%
- Campeche, 44.54%
- Quintana Roo, 44.44%
- Hidalgo, 36.21%
- Chiapas, 36.15%
- Puebla, 35.28%
- Guerrero, 33.92%
- Veracruz, 29.25%
- Morelos, 28.11%
- Michoacán, 27.69%
- Tabasco, 25.77%
- Tlaxcala, 25.24%
- San Luis Potosí, 23.20%
- Nayarit, 22.18%
- Colima, 20.43%
- Querétaro, 19.17%
- Sonora, 17.83%
- State of Mexico, 17.00%
- Baja California Sur, 14.47%
- Sinaloa, 12.83%
- Aguascalientes, 11.69%
- Chihuahua, 11.28%
- Jalisco, 11.12%
- Guanajuato, 9.13%
- Distrito Federal, 8.80%
- Baja California, 8.54%
- Durango, 7.94%
- Zacatecas, 7.61%
- Coahuila, 6.93%
- Nuevo León, 6.88%
- Tamaulipas, 6.30%
In 2011 a large scale mitochondrial sequencing in Mexican Americans revealed 85 to 90% of maternal mtDNA lineages are of Native American origin, with the remainder having European (5-7%) or African ancestry (3-5%). Thus the observed frequency of Native American mtDNA in Mexican/Mexican Americans is higher than was expected on the basis of autosomal estimates of Native American admixture for these populations i.e. ~ 30-46%
Development and socio-economic indicators
Generally, indigenous Mexicans live more poorly than non-indigenous Mexicans however, social development varies between states, different indigenous ethnicities and between rural and urban areas. In all states indigenous people have higher infant mortality, in some states almost double of the non-indigenous populations.
Some indigenous groups, particularly the Yucatec Maya in the Yucatán peninsula and some of the Nahua and Otomi peoples in central states have maintained higher levels of development while indigenous peoples in states such as the Guerrero or Michoacán are ranked drastically lower than the average Mexican citizen in these fields. Despite certain indigenous groups such as the Maya or Nahua retaining high levels of development, the general indigenous population lives at a lower level of development than the general population.
Literacy rates are much lower for the indigenous, particularly in the southwestern states of Guerrero and Oaxaca due lack of access to education and a lack of the educational literature available in indigenous languages. Literacy rates are also much lower, with 27% of indigenous children between 6 and 14 being illiterate compared to a national average of 12%. The Mexican government is obligated to provide education in indigenous languages, but many times fails to provide schooling in languages other than Spanish. As a result, many indigenous groups have resorted to creating their own small community educational institutions.
The indigenous population participate in the workforce longer than the national average, starting earlier and continuing longer. A major reason for this is that significant number of the indigenous practice economically under productive agriculture and receive no regular salaries. Indigenous people also have less access to health care.
Indigenous groups with a population of more than 100,000
|Indigenous peoples of Mexico|
|Nahuatl (Nāhuatlācah [naːwaˈt͡ɬaːkaʔ])||2,445,969||1,659,029|
|(Yucatec) Maya (Maya’wiinik [majaˈwiːnik])||1,475,575||892,723|
|Mixtec (Tu’un savi)||726,601||510,801|
|Tzotzil (Batzil k’op)||406,962||356,349|
|Tzeltal (K’op o winik atel)||384,074||336,448|
|Mazatec (Ha shuta enima)||305,836||246,198|
|Chinantec (Tsa jujmí)||201,201||152,711|
|Source: CDI (2000) |
¹Number of indigenous peoples that still speak their Indigenous language
Indigenous groups with a population of more than 20,000 and less than 100,000
|Indigenous Languages of Mexico|
|Zoque (O’de püt)||86,589||34,770|
|Chontal Maya (Yokot)||79,438||43,850|
|Tepehuan (O’dam, Audam, and Ódami)||37,548||30,339|
|Cuicatec (Nduudu yu)||22,984||15,078|
|Source: CDI (2000) |
1Number of indigenous peoples that still speak their Indigenous language
Indigenous groups with a population of less than 20,000
|Indigenous Languages of Mexico|
|Chontal of Oaxaca (Slijuala sihanuk)||12,663||5,534|
|Chichimeca Jonaz (Uza)||3,169||1,987|
|Chocho (Runixa ngiigua)||2,592||1,078|
|Lacandon (Hach t’an)||896||731|
|K’iche’ (Quiché, Q’iché)||524||286|
|Tohono O’odham (Papago)||363||153|
|Cocopah (Es péi)||344||206|
|Cochimi (Laymón, mti’pá)||226||96|
|2 Includes Opata, Soltec and Papabuco|
|Source: CDI (2000) |
1Number of indigenous peoples that still speak their Indigenous language
Islam in Mexico is a minority religion in the country. Many Muslims are descended of Arab immigrants, notably Lebanese Mexicans, while others are of native origin. According to the 2010 census conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), there were 3,700 Muslims in the country, with a majority being Sunnis and a minority of Shiites and Ahmadiyyas.
Today, most Mexican Islamic organizations focus on grassroots missionary activities which are most effective at the community level.
The Centro Cultural Islámico de México (CCIM), a Sunni organization headed by Omar Weston, a British born Mexican convert to Islam, has been active in several big cities in northern and central Mexico. In the state of Morelos, the CCIM built a prayer hall and centre for recreation, learning and conferences, called Dar as Salaam, which also operates Hotel Oasis, a hotel that offers halal holidays for Muslim travellers and accommodation for non-Muslims sympathetic to Islam. This group was the subject of a study carried out by British anthropologist Mark Lindley-Highfield of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. Apart from CCIM there is a branch of the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi Order in Mexico City which is often at odds with the traditionalist Muslim community and is headed by two women, Shaykha Fatima Fariha and Shaykha Amina Teslima. There is also a small Salafi organization (the Centro Salafi de México) led by Muhammad Abdullah Ruiz (a former deputy to Weston) and an educational centre managed mainly by Muslims from Egypt and the Middle East, el “Centro Educativo de la Comunidad Musulmana en México” (run by Isa Rojas, a Mexican convert to Islam, who studied Islamic studies in the University of Medina), within the capital city.
|Federal Entity||Muslim Population (2010)|
|Mexico (whole country)||3,762|
|Baja California Sur||20|
|San Luis Potosí||56|
|Mexican Federal District||1,178|
Indigenous Mexican Muslims
The Spanish Murabitun community, the Comunidad Islámica en España, based in Granada in Spain, and one of its missionaries, Muhammad Nafia (formerly Aureliano Pérez), now emir of the Comunidad Islámica en México, arrived in the state of Chiapas shortly after the Zapatista uprising and established a commune in the city of San Cristóbal. The group, characterized as anti-capitalistic, entered an ideological pact with the socialist Zapatistas group. President Vicente Fox voiced concerns about the influence of the fundamentalism and possible connections to the Zapatistas and the Basque terrorist organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), but it appeared that converts had no interest in political extremism. By 2015, many indigenous Mayans and more than 700 Tzotzils have converted to Islam..In San Cristóbal, the Murabitun established a pizzeria, a carpentry workshop and a Quranic school (madrasa) where children learned Arabic and prayed five times a day in the backroom of a residential building, and women in head scarves have become a common sight. Nowadays, most of the Mayan Muslims have left the Murabitun and established ties with the CCIM, now following the orthodox Sunni school of Islam. They built the Al-Kausar Mosque in San Cristobal de las Casas.
- Suraya Mosque in Torreon, Coahuila.
- Dar es Salaam Mosque in Tequesquitengo, Morelos.
- Tahaarah Mosque in Comitan, Chiapas.
- Al Kautsar Mosque in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.
- Al Medina Mosque in San Cristobal de las casas, Chiapas
- Musala Tlaxcala #30 San Critobal de las Casas, Chiapas
- Murabitun Mosque San Cristobal de las casa, Chiapas
- Salafi Mosque Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab in Mexico City.
- Mezquita/ tekke de la Orden Jalveti Yerraji instituto Luz Sobre Luz in Mexico City.
- Masiid Omar, Centro Islamico Tijuana Beaches, Baja California, Mexico.
- Al-Hikmah Ciudad de México, Aragón, Mexico.
- Mezquita Euclides Euclides 25, Col. Anzures, Polanco, Ciudad de México