Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tragic Cultural Loss


Within Colombia's Ministry of Culture is a small program known as the Program for the Protection of Ethnolinguistic Diversity. This week the program announced a tragic loss of Colombian cultural heritage -- the loss of 5 native Colombian languages, with 19 on the critically endangered list.

For its size, Colombian boasts an inordinate number of spoken languages, with 65 native languages and 2 creole languages -- this is not to mention Spanish. More than half of those spoken languages are spoken by fewer than 1,000 people. The most threatened language is that of TINIGUA, which as of the date of the report was spoken by only 1 indigenous person living in the department of Meta. The NONUYA language, from the area of Puerto Santander in the department of Amazonas, is next with only 3 speakers. Followed by CARIJONA spoken by 30 people who live in the department of Vaupés.

Among the other 19 languages on their way to extinction is the creole of San Basilio de Palenque, a language developed by the escaped African slaves of the Atlantic Coast. This creole was declared an Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, but sadly is being lost. You can read more about that here:


These languages are very unique and varied in their origin, syntax, and use. Therefore, the loss of cultural heritage that these languages represent is truly a tragedy.

Clip art:

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