When the Spanish conquistadors entered Mexico, they changed Mexican customs and culture forever. Mexican language also changed. The Spanish brought their language to Mexico, where it’s predominant today.
The Mexican language version of Spanish is not the same as standard European Spanish. Most of the conquistadors were from the region of Extremadura, an impoverished area that young men left to seek their fortunes in the New World. Extremadura had several dialects of Spanish, but standard Spanish wasn’t spoken there.
Then, when the conquistadors arrived in Mexico, they had to communicate with the indigenous people somehow. They depended on native-born slaves who could quickly learn Spanish, or the clergy, who learned the indigenous languages so they could get converts. As more and more Spanish settled in Mexico, the dominant language became Spanish. But because the Spanish speakers adopted so many native words, and they were isolated from European Spanish, Mexican Spanish developed many differences.
The Mexican language has undergone various changes in the previous century or two. Today, Mexican Spanish has a lilting intonation that European Spanish doesn’t. This comes from the Nahuatl language, which also has this intonation. Mexican Spanish has also kept many indigenous words from the days of the conquistadors, such as aguacate, or avocado, and patata, or potato. Mexican Spanish still shows marks of its origins with the conquistadors. It uses many archaic expressions, and it also shows traces of the accent of Extremadura.
Mexican American culture influences Mexican language styles here in the United States. Many Mexicans who have settled in south Texas speak a blend of Spanish and English called Tex Mex. Linguists believe Tex Mex may be evolving into a separate language, because people have been using it for 4 or 5 generations instead of adopting English. As a result, Mexican Spanish is influenced much more by English than European Spanish is.
Mexican American culture has also influenced Mexican customs such as cuisine. Tex Mex cooking uses Mexican basics such as tortillas, but adds more beef, pork and cheese than is traditional. This is thought to be because of the ranching lifestyle in south Texas. This blending of cultures also influences Mexican Spanish, bringing in new words. Mixed in with Mexican American culture is bits and pieces of South American culture making for an interesting mix in some localized areas.
But although Spanish is the primary language, there are 68 indigenous languages in Mexico, and about 6% of Mexicans speak one. About 1,300,000 people speak Nahuatl, 759,000 speak Yucatec Maya, and 400,000 speak Mixtec. The Mexican government guarantees indigenous people the right to use their language.
This wasn’t always the case. In 1696 the King of Spain ordered that the indigenous people be educated in Spanish ways, and that policy continued even after Mexico gained its independence. In 1820, 60% of Mexicans spoke an indigenous language, and that number has gone down steadily since. But today, Mexico defines itself as a multicultural state, and in 2002 it amended the constitution, requiring the government to protect languages and promote diversity.
So, the “Mexican language” is not only Spanish, it’s a uniquely Mexican Spanish and a rich heritage of indigenous languages that are part of Mexico’s culture.
Mexican Language: Is It Spanish Or… ? featured photo by: Ms. Phoenix
[editors note:] Did you like this post? I encourage you to share it. If you just ‘like’ it your friends will miss out! Click that “share” button and let others enjoy it too! Don’t forget to sign up to our weekly newsletter with all the goods and information on giveaways, promotions, etc. It’s good. Trust me.