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Mexico’s 2015 Intercensal Survey

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.

Indigenous 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 self-identification) 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 Classification

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:

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Nearly two-thirds of the populations of both Oaxaca and Yucatán considered themselves to be indigenous. In all, 16 states had an indigenous population of over 20%.  On the other hand, the state with the lowest percentage of persons considered indigenous was Tamaulipas (6.3%), followed by two other northern Mexican states: Nuevo León (6.9%) and Coahuila (6.9%).

Across all states, the survey reported that 21.5% of all Mexicans considered themselves to be of indigenous descent, which means that more than one-fifth of the entire population of the nation recognized its indigenous origins. A table at the end of this article illustrates the survey results for all the Mexican states and the Distrito Federal (DF).

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 Indigenous languages. While 21.5 percent of Mexican residents recognize that their culture and physical appearance has been inherited from indigenous ancestors, a much smaller percent of people actually speak 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.

Not a single state had a population of indigenous speakers that exceeded one-third of its total population. Only Oaxaca — with 32.2% of its people speaking indigenous languages — approached the one-third mark.  As a matter of fact, only eight states actually had populations of 10% or more who spoke indigenous languages, as noted below:

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A table at the end of this article illustrates the survey results for all the Mexican states and the Distrito Federal (DF).

Afromexican Population

Still another 2015 survey question asked “De acuerdo con su cultura, historia y tradiciones, se considera negra(o), es decir, afromexicana(o) o afrodescendiente?” Essentially, each Mexican resident was asked if, according to their culture, history and traditions, they considered themselves to be black (i.e., an Afromexican or Afro-descendant). Once again, each respondent had four possible answers.

The survey revealed that only nine states had Afromexican populations that exceeded 0.5%, as illustrated in the following table:

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While census data from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries indicate that many African slaves labored throughout Mexico in the colonial period, assimilation with Spaniards, mestizos and Indians over time had reduced their cultural influence on present-day populations in Mexico.

Principal Indigenous Languages

The principal languages spoken in Mexico in 2015 are shown in the following table, which shows the states of origin for each language:

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As in past censuses, Náhuatl, the language of the Aztecs, continued to be the language of almost one-quarter of all indigenous speakers in Mexico. Thanks to the widespread migration of laborers from one part of Mexico to another, many of these “Top Ten” languages are spoken in a wide range of states, some of which are far the original homeland of the language.  

Mexican Migration from Place of Origin

According to the 2015 Intercensal Survey, with the information on the place of birth of each survey respondent, INEGI reported that 17.4% of Mexican residents throughout the country were either born in an entity other than the entity in which they resided, or were born abroad (i.e., U.S., Guatemala, etc.).

According to the 2015 Survey, the following states have the largest percentage of their populations born in another entity (Mexican state or the Distrito Federal) or another country:

  • Quintana Roo (54.1%)
  • Baja California (44.1%)
  • Baja California Sur (39.6%)
  • Estado de México (33.7%)
  • Colima (28.7%)
  • Morelos (27.3%)
  • Querétaro (25.4%)
  • Campeche (24.0%)
  • Tamaulipas (23.1%)
  • Nuevo León (21.2%)

The states with the least percent of people born in another country or state were Chiapas (3.4%), Guerrero (4.9%) and Oaxaca (6.2%).

Migration and Indigenous Languages

If the high level of migration continues in many parts of Mexico, Indigenous languages will continue to be spread across the entire Mexican Republic. However, with new generations of children and grandchildren adapting to new cultural environments, it is also possible that some of the descendants of these migrants will no longer speak their mother tongue and will become more comfortable with the Spanish language.

Linguistic and Ethnic Identity in Mexico

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):

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Bibliography

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 población.

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