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Ja ist es mexikanisch

9 January 2009

I had some back-and-forth with the editor of Gods, Gachupines and Gringos over a footnote where I mentioned that the second most commonly spoken language in Mexico was now English, followed by Nahuatl, German and the various Mayan languages.  My editor thought I’d made a mistake, until I added a sentence in the footnote reading, “the number of German speakers has declined over the last several decades, though it is still widely spoken in Chihuahua and Coahuila, especially by Mennonites.”

Those Mennonites technically speak “Platdeitch“, which some consider a distinct language from German, but Platdeitch documents are convential German with phonetic spellling and can be understood by German speakers — as well, or better than I could understand my English-speaking Jamaican neighbors in Mexico City (we had to rely on their Sierra Leonian roomie for translation, or speak in Spanish!).  And, I tend to the cynical viewpoint that “a dialect is a language without an army.”  The Mexican pacifist Platdeitch speakers have no army, and so… I count the 50,000 or so Platdeitch speakers in Mexico as German-speakers.

What brought this to mind was that one of the best Mex Files ever written was not by me, but by a former collaborator (and I’m always looking for others) Lyn: “The Mennonites in Mexico” still gets a hits regularly, and I sometimes receive e-mail about the piece.

stellet_lichtThere were a couple of emails about a film called “Silent Light”, but I can’t follow everything in Mexico, and one of my eccentricities is that I like movies, but don’t like going to movie theaters.  If I watch a movie, it’s usually at least twenty years old, and I watch it on TV.   And, apparently, the PR people sending out the e-mail were misinformed.  The film is “Stellet Licht” — the first Mexican film, and first film anywhere — made in a Platdeitch.  And, for an art-housy type film, is getting very good reviews.

Gayle Sondergaard went broke making a great movie partially in Espanglish.  Mel Gibson made a bundle on a crappy one in Yucateca.  I hope Carlos Reygada’s story of Chihuahua farmer Johan’s  tragic affair with Miriam will prove as worth watching as “Salt of the Earth” and earn at least something approaching “Apocalypto”.

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