All you need to know about Iberian America

Indigenous Folks Leaving for the City in Latin America

As I wrote about here

In my first trip to Mexico years ago…

I went to some small indigenous village area part of the Zapatista movement with some other Americans.

When I was there, I often met a handful of folks who couldn’t speak Spanish as it wasn’t a language plenty of the folks didn’t speak amongst themselves.

And in that time, I met a local who told me about how he was considering his life future…

And how it might be an option to move out to another nearby city where there are better job opportunities…

As some of the people in the indigenous villages and towns of the Zapatista movement have done before…

That story isn’t unique though to me…

There are people all around the world who are moving away from rural areas to more urban areas in pursuit of better paying jobs.

As rural areas get left behind in the dust..

Same thing happens in Iowa, where I am from, as more people are leaving to go to bigger cities nearby like Chicago.

Or, if they want to stay in Iowa, maybe Des Moines, Davenport or Iowa City.

Well, same thing happening here in Chiapas with some folks leaving behind their villages…

The culture that those villages have…

The friends and family they have there…

And more..

And that, again, is not unusual.

I saw the same thing in other areas of Latin America through my time here.

Xela, Guatemala

Back when I was living in Xela, Guatemala for a few months…

I was walking around some touristy part of the city with another American guy who was staying at the same homestay that I was…

When we came across this Guatemalan guy who approached us when he heard us speaking English to each other.

He asked us in Spanish about where are we from.

Well, he seemed friendly and wasn’t trying to rob us..

As some folks do down here when they want to distract you while someone else steals from you..

He was just curious – which is another thing that happens down here as you meet new people.

Where, in some cases, you meet folks who approach you because you are speaking in English and they are curious about where you are from.

Can often be an easy way to make a new friend down here.

Happens in areas that don’t have as many tourists as Cancun for example..

Either way, we got talking with the guy..

And he explains to us his story..

About how he came from a small village or town in Guatemala where nobody speaks Spanish.

And that might be a surprise to some of you who have never been to Latin America..

But in more isolated and rural areas of this part of the world, there are people who don’t speak a lick of Spanish or Portuguese.

That was a surprise to me anyway back when years ago when he said that nobody speaks Spanish in his hometown.

And that, to him, Spanish is a second language that he had to learn later in life.

Well, I asked him anyway why he left his home.

And he said that he was basically just looking for better jobs that can support himself and a family years down the road.

And his case isn’t unusual…

Mexico City Metro

 About a year and a half ago more or less..

I was on the metro in Mexico City when this older guy was walking down handing everyone a small piece of paper.

That basically explained that he is from some small town or village in rural Mexico.

And that he is part of some indigenous group down here.

And that he is basically looking for money as he moved to Mexico City for better prospects on getting money to support himself and his wife.

I ended up giving him about 10 pesos if I remember right.

And he nodded and went along….

Now, in hindsight, I suspect he might have not been able to speak Spanish since he never spoke a word.

I could be wrong though – but there are folks who don’t necessarily speak Spanish or Portuguese from some of the more rural areas as I said before.

Which, by the way, in my time in Mexico City, I have seen a handful of indigenous folks in the streets who are homeless looking for money.

 But it seems to be more common from what I have seen in more touristy areas – probably in part because there are more tourists that can give money.

And from what I have seen, tourists tend to be a little more generous and less negative about giving out some money than the locals.

Not always but it’s something I have seen to be true – if you are new to Mexico and you see some old lady carrying a child…

And you got plenty of money – maybe hand her 5 bucks in pesos.

Whereas a Mexican might give 5 to 10 pesos.

At least that is what I have seen.


Back when I was visiting Paraguay some years ago…

We ended up checking out some rural areas outside of the capital city.

In one are in particular that I remember, there was some alcolohism issues.

One of the local residents made that apparent as he stumbled around drunk yelling out in guarani or whatever language he was yelling in.

Most likely guarani though given how more popular that language is in Paraguay.

And while alcoholism was an issue some of the other residents mentioned…

Another issue was the  lack of social services – no school, no proper water service, etc..

Curious, I asked how they were working with that.

Well, they do with what they have obviously.

Some of the folks though have been leaving the village area to nearby cities like Asuncion for a better life…

The Point

As said before, the point of this article is to basically bring light to an interesting development in Latin America.

A development that has been going on for obviously a long time now.

Which is the continual disappearance of indigenous cultures and languages in Latin America.

As more and more people migrate to the bigger cities…

They leave behind them their communities where their families, friends and cultures are…

Those communities continue to disintegrate as more people leave them and as there are limited to no social services available in those areas.

Meanwhile, discrimination continues to exist against indigenous folks in Latin America.

Something you see over time living down here from time to time.

And you also have some indigenous folks who choose to not teach their children their languages and prefer they speak Spanish or Portuguese.

As that is the language that is most useful in gaining employment.

And as well speaking any indigenous language or associating yourself with any indigenous culture can lead to some folks discriminating against you.

And over time, less and less people identify as indigenous.

While more and more of these folks get absorbed, as I would put it, into the broader culture of the society at large.

Thereby, over time, continually erasing the vast amounts of indigenous cultures that exist in Latin America.

It’s an interesting and sad development when you think about it.

But a trend nonetheless that has been happening for a very long time.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting to point out this aspect of life down here.

If you liked the article or have your own insight on the topic, leave a comment below.

And follow my Twitter here.


Best regards,


No comments yet

Leave a Reply: