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Gaps and discrimination, a serious burden for indigenous people in Mexico

In Mexico, the Day of the Indigenous Peoples often provides an opportunity to highlight the discrimination and social and economic disadvantages that the indigenous population suffers, or the racism or rejection that the mestizos recognize.

This reality apparently affects 7,383,000 people (those who are officially considered indigenous, because they speak one of the 68 indigenous languages with their 364 variants).

But, according to data from the 2015 Intercensal Survey, carried out by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), there are 25.7 million people in our country who recognize themselves (self-identify, for reasons of culture, origin, territory, family, etc.) as indigenous, which represents 21.5% of the national population.

Data on racism and discrimination are available from various sources. For example, the National Survey of Indigenous People in Mexico (carried out in 2016 by the National University of Mexico) indicated that for 43.2 per cent of all respondents, 1,200 non-indigenous people, the greatest disadvantage of being indigenous in our country is discrimination, and the other perceived obstacles are marginalization and poverty (21.6 per cent), exclusion (5.8) and illiteracy (4.9).

The most recent edition of the 2010 National Survey on Discrimination in Mexico (Enadis) says that for indigenous groups the main problem they face is discrimination, the second is poverty and the third is lack of government support. It is important to note that this group believes that having a language other than Spanish represents one of their main problems. Enadis, which is set up by the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination (Conapred), also points out that 75.4 per cent of the general population believes that the rights of indigenous people are respected little or not at all.

Of course, there are realities in terms of infrastructure, education, access to health, housing, etc., which ratify the perceptions of the surveys. And while it is true that indigenous peoples (in Mexico and around the world) claim the right to “good living”, that is, to a development characterized by cosmogonic visions different from the West, in greater harmony with the land and with less material ambition, there is no justification whatsoever for the discrimination that the State incurs, through budgets, policies and programs, by not investing sufficiently in the economic, social, and productive development of these peoples.

In principle, poverty stands out. According to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval: 2014), 73.2% of the indigenous population is in a situation of poverty in relation to 43.2% of the non-indigenous population, and 31.8% of the indigenous population is in extreme poverty in relation to 7.1% of the non-indigenous population.

Here we mention some other indicators that show the disadvantages of the indigenous population, whose source is the Inegi (2016).

15% of indigenous language speakers are not affiliated with health services. Of the total number of people affiliated with health services, 98.8% are affiliated with a public sector institution, mainly the Seguro Popular. Twenty-three percent of indigenous language speakers over the age of 15 are illiterate, compared to 4.2% of non-speakers in this situation.

46.9% of the population aged 15 years and older that speaks an indigenous language is economically active, that is, they are working or looking for work, compared to 54.7% for non-indigenous speakers. Indigenous people work mainly as employees or labourers (37.7%), as self-employed workers (28.7%), and as day labourers or labourers (11.5%). Five out of every hundred indigenous language speakers are unpaid workers, compared to two out of every hundred non-indigenous language speakers. 32.2% of economically active indigenous women are self-employed, compared to 19% of non-indigenous women.

With data up to 2015, at least one indigenous language speaker lives in 9.1% of the country’s homes. Of these homes, 13.4% have a dirt floor, compared to 2.6% of homes where there are no speakers of an indigenous language. 14.3% of homes with indigenous language speakers do not have piped water, which represents more than three times the percentage of homes where there are no indigenous language speakers in the same condition (4.2%).

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