Sunday, April 5, 2009
"ASL and Mexico"
I occasionally visit family in a small town in Mexico by the
name of Santa Maria del Valle Jalisco. It is a very small town
that only has the basic businesses and institutions. There are a
few elementary school and only about a couple of high schools. I
mention the size of the town because a small town like this
could not afford an institution for my deaf friend that I have
in Mexico. I was about 8 years old when I made friends with a
boy named Eden. Eden was the youngest of four brothers. Only one
of the brothers was hearing while the rest of the brothers were
born deaf. I remember meeting Eden and trying to communicate
with him and being told that he was not able to hear. I
eventually learned how to communicate with him through signs
that had been created by those around him. Till this day when I
go back I continue to communicate with my friend with a made up
language. I wondered later if there was any form of education or
institutions for the deaf in Mexico.
I began to look at some statistics in Mexico and found out that
in Signed Languages of Mexico (2008) Mexican Sign Language is
the most used in the country. There are about 87,000 to 100,000
users of MSL of about 1,300,000 deaf persons (Gordon, 2005).
Although it might have certain similarities with American Sign
Language it has its own grammar and vocabulary. LSM as it is
known in Mexico is a language that can be learned without
knowing Spanish and is influenced by French Sign Language (
Dellinger, Eatough, Faurot, Parkhurst, 2008). There are
institutions in Mexico that try to provide education for the
deaf and one such group is that of Con Mis Manos which is
located in the City of Matamoros. As a Christian group Con mis
manos promotes educating the deaf to be able to interact with
the public (Con mis Manos). The group works with the deaf and
their families to educate and give vocational training and at
the same time teach Christianity (2008).
The problem faced in Mexico is that only large cities are able
to hold institutions which support the deaf. Depalma (1997)
wrote about the barriers faced by deaf individuals in Mexico. He
reported that the deaf were not able to obtain licenses, buy
houses without a hearing co-signer and were limited to 6 schools
for the deaf (1997). Depalma also mentioned that many deaf were
heading up north to the United States because of the increased
opportunities that the deaf could receive. Depalma mentioned
that 80 percent of deaf adults in Mexico travel illegally to the
United States because of the greater possibilities that the deaf
have in the United States.
Small towns like those of my town in Mexico do not have
sufficient means for teaching the deaf and so children like Eden
grow up not knowing how to read or even how to spell their own
name. I look at the situations faced by the deaf in Mexico and
look at the changes that have been made here in the United
States and I am glad that there is ASL classes now being taught
in a variety of institutions. Hopefully these same institutions
can spread out in Mexico and give other people an opportunity to
Con Mis Manos. (n.d.). Con Mis Manos Help Center for Deaf
Children. In Deafness. Retrieved April 01, 2009, from http://www.conmismanos.org/conmismanos/deafinmx.htm.
Dellinger, D., Eatough, A., Faurot, K., Parkhurst, S.,. (2008).
Summer Institute of Linguistics in Mexico. In The Identity of
Mexican Sign As a Language. Retrieved April 01, 2009, from
Depalma, A., (1997). In Mexico, Deaf Find The Future Lies North.
The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1997/07/26/nyregion/in-mexico-deaf-find-the-future-lies-north.html?sec=health.
Gordon, R, G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the
World, 15th Ed. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Retrieved April
01, 2009 from http://www.ethnologue.com/.
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