Acculturation of Indigenous Societies: A Mixe Case Study

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Hoogshagen, Searle
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Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 8(6)
pages 513-28
When the nations of Western Europe discovered and colonised North and South America, a process of acculturation began for the indigenous peoples of the ‘New World’. Although acculturation went both ways, most of it was in the direction of indigenous peoples changing to the cultures of the conquering nations. The focus of this paper is on a village culture located in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico and the effects upon it of the Spanish culture. For the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca, the acculturation process was most intense from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries and again during the twentieth century. In the post‐conquest period, Roman Catholic missionaries were the principal culture‐change agents in the New World, as they converted the indigenous people to the Christian faith and to Spanish European culture. The oral traditions and the world view with which the indigenous communities regulate themselves in the twentieth century reflect the work of these missionaries. In the present century, there are many forces of acculturation. Among them are public education, the sciences, Protestant Christianity in its diverse forms, modern technology, government programmes for the villages, and political parties vying for the allegiance of indigenous peoples and dramatising their culture for political purposes. The purpose of this paper is to discuss some of the positive and negative factors in acculturation, especially among the Mixe people of the village of Coatlán where my wife and I lived many years studying the language and culture, promoting literacy, developing literature in the native language, compiling a dictionary, and translating Bible portions.
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