Mexico’s Indian Heritage

Mitla Ruina

The national language of Mexico is Spanish, but several great civilizations, founded by American Indians who spoke languages unrelated to the languages of Europe, existed in Mexico before Hernán Cortés came to America from Spain in 1518.

These original languages of Mexico belong to several large groups of languages. Within these groups, there are today some twenty families of languages, and a total of more than 150 important linguistic variants.

It was many thousands of years ago that the ancestors of the peoples who speak these languages today arrived in the area that is now Mexico. We do not know exactly when that was or where they came from, but it is generally believed that they arrived at different times and that they probably originally came to America from Asia.

Unlike the United States where most citizens are the children of immigrants, the majority of Mexican citizens are the descendents of these American Indian peoples, although only 10% of them still speak a native Indian language.