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Whispers from the sand, a glimpse through the indigenous languages of the Americas

“The ways in which we can incorporate the languages of the world are multiple and they enrich us, they make us understand that all of them have something valuable, which in the long run generates better possibilities of dialog and understanding of others, multiple others.”


Yásnaya Aguilar



America's desert, wind blows the sand


Pepperberry is a multicultural company, which means that we need a common language to communicate; in our case, is English. We are, currently, mostly a Mexican team, with few exceptions in the management/executive positions on the editorial. We wanted to clarify that in this text, we will be talking from the Mexican perspective of the team. By speaking both English and Spanish, everybody on the team is bilingual. The history of our country, one of violence and systematic oppression, made us grow monolingual in Spanish and learn English, either by choice or need.


But we should not have been monolingual Spanish speakers; we should know some of the variants of Maya or Nahuatl according to the places each one of us is from, or at least Maya since most of us live in Yucatan. Since Spanish is the country’s official language, we should have been raised bilingual in the pre-Colon and the "official" one. The colonization, the racism, classism, and the laws themselves forced the population to become monolingual Spanish speakers, and globalization made us start becoming bi or even multilingual with languages that would, supposedly, improve the quality of our lives. Some of us in the team know words or even full phrases in Maya; the parents of part of the crew understand it, the grandparents of others speak it; our main writer took some lessons of Nahuatl, but sadly, none of us fully speak any of these languages, let alone one of the other 66 languages speak through the country.


But the idea of this section is not to complain about things that happened before our existence or things that are not fully in our hands. We decided to create this section to celebrate the joy of knowing there are plenty of languages all over our country and more in the rest of the continent. We want this to become a space for the readers and for the Pepperberry team to learn at least one word a week and to get to know about the existence of the language where this word is from. Our idea is to at least help spread language awareness and share the delight in learning new ways of communicating.


We share Yasnaya's Aguilar posture when she says in her wonderful essay "Delicias post-Babel" (After Babel delights) that learning other languages is one of the most oblivious ways of enjoying the linguistic richness of the world. We know you will not learn a full language in this section, but one word could take you to another, and you could find here languages that resonate with you. It was after reading Yasnaya’s book that we produced this idea because she states that getting to know the languages that exist, sharing them, and encouraging others to do so is a way -a small one- to help stop the disappearance that these languages have been facing because of the policies of a lot of nations.


We decided to call this section “Whispers from the sand” as a reference to our upcoming production Bodies of Sand: Where Days Repeat Endlessly, inspired by mythology from the American continent, and in which we use words coming from Nahuatl and other languages to name places and characters. We are proud of our book, the story it portrays, and the future readers that it will have. That is why we want to offer quality content based on the things we believe in.


Our goal is to make yolikni, which is the Nahuatl word for friend (yolo: heart, iknin: brother), so if you are interested, do not be shy and hear with us what the sand whispers.

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