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Indigenous poets at SLCC event say their languages have right to coexist [Video]

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First Nations News

This story is jointly published by nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with Salt Lake Community College, to elevate diverse perspectives in local media through student journalism.

There was a moment, the Guatemalan poet Miguel Ángel Oxlaj Cúmez said, when he thought to himself, “if my humanity was going to be ridiculed, why would I speak [it]?”

Speaking at Salt Lake Community College, Cúmez recalled how Spanish colonizers often punished, beat or killed Indigenous people for speaking their mother tongue. The subsequent rise of the Spanish language even resulted in a crop of great significance to the Indigenous Kaqchikel culture — corn — being used against them.

“They would make us kneel on corn kernels until we admitted that Kaqchikel was useless,” he said.

Cúmez spoke at a Feb. 21 event called “Mother Tongues and Their Right to Coexist.” The event — which also featured poet Rosa Maqueda Vicente, from México and of the Hñähñu people — was presented primarily in Spanish …

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