Mexico’s Indigenous identity in the 2015 Intercensal Survey

Mexico’s 2015 Intercensal

In 2016,
the Mexican government agency, Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía
e Informática (INEGI), published the 2015 Intercensal Survey, which
upgraded Mexico’s socio-demographic information to the midpoint between the
2010 census and the census to be carried out in 2020. With a sample size of
over 6 million homes, this survey provides information on the national, state
and municipio level, as of March 15th, 2015.

Self-Identity in the Mexican Census

From 1895 to 1990, the Mexican census asked Mexican citizens
if they spoke an indigenous language. Only the 1921 census used racial
categories. However, in recent years, INEGI has begun to recognize “Autoadscripción étnica” (ethnic
which gives citizens the right to “self-identification
based on their own culture, traditions and history,” even if they do not speak
an indigenous language.

In 2000, INEGI first began using indigenous
self-identification in the census. But, in 2010, it was used in a more careful
and measured manner. Suddenly, many people proud of their indigenous origins
and cultural practices responded to the question of indigenous identity in a
positive manner. As a result, the number of indigenous people in Mexico jumped
from 15.7 million people 3 years of age and more (14.9%) in 2010 to 25.7
million (21.5%) five years later. But some analysts believe the 2015 figures
may be over-estimates. Ultimately, the results of the 2020 census will probably
clarify this when compared with the 2010 and 2015 census results.

Considered Indigenous

One of
the 2015 survey questions asked, “De acuerdo, con su cultura, se
considera indígena?” Essentially, Mexican residents were being asked if they
considered themselves indigenous through their culture. Survey respondents had
four possible responses:

  1. Sí (Yes)
  2. Sí, en parte (Yes, in part)
  3. No
  4. No sabe (Do not know)

Based on the responses to this question, eight Mexican states in 2015 had populations that considered one-third or more of their people to be of indigenous descent, as noted below:

1. Oaxaca (65.7% indigenous population)
2. Yucatán (65.4%)
3. Campeche (44.5%)
4. Quintana Roo (44.4%)
5. Hidalgo (36.2%)
6. Chiapas (36.1%)
7. Puebla (35.3%)
8. Guerrero (33.9%)

The Indigenous-Speaking Population
The 2015 census count told a different story with regards to the population of persons 3 years of age and older who spoke somen Indigenous languages. While 21.5 percent of Mexican residents recognized that their culture, traditions and physical appearance have been inherited from indigenous ancestors, a much smaller percent of people actually spoke an indigenous language: 6.5%.

Another question in the 2015 survey asked each participant if they spoke an indigenous dialect or language. Only persons 3 years of age and older were considered for this category.

Linguistic and Ethnic Identity in 2015

The following table contains 2015 Intercensal Survey data relating to populations that speak indigenous languages or identity themselves to be of Indigenous or Afromexican descent. The table has been sorted by indigenous identity (the first row):


INEGI. Principales
resultados de la Encuesta Intercensal 2015. Estado Unidos Mexicanos.


INEGI. Principales
resultados de la Encuesta Intercensal 2015. Estado Unidos
Mexicanos:  III: Etnicidad.

INEGI, Encuesta
Intercensal 2015: Cuestionario para viviendas particulares habitadas y
. Online: