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Mexican Sign Language:

Sunday, April 5, 2009
By Alejandro Rodriguez
"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 grow.

Works Cited

Con Mis Manos. (n.d.). Con Mis Manos Help Center for Deaf Children. In Deafness. Retrieved April 01, 2009, from

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
Gordon, R, G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 15th Ed. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Retrieved April 01, 2009 from


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