05 | DIC | 2019
IntraBACH, an intranet to promote Tzeltal language and culture
Rural areas do not have Internet access because it is not profitable for companies - Photo: Taken from IntraBACH's Facebook account

IntraBACH, an intranet to promote Tzeltal language and culture

28/11/2019
18:31
EFE
Mexico City
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A group of bilingual teachers and IT experts developed an intranet with content in Tzeltal language to bring the digital world to the indigenous people in Chiapas

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A group of bilingual teachers and computer experts developed an intranet with content in Tzeltal language to bring the digital world to the indigenous people of the Mexican state of Chiapas.

“When I came to see the technology needs, it was concerning, however, that didn’t stop me from exploring and searching for a way for the kids to learn a bit more; I started with some basic tools for using computers,” said to EFE Luis Ramón Alvarado Pascacio.

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This Tzeltal native, systems engineer, master in high school education, and member of the group “Ik’ ta K’op” (“word in the wind” in Tzeltal), explains that these rural areas do not have Internet access because it is not profitable for companies.

In Chiapas, barely 16% of the population has access to the Internet, according to the National Survey on Availability and Use of Information Technologies at Homes (ENDUTIH) of the Statistics and Geography Institute (Inegi).

Given this scenario, 10 years ago, Alvarado began to create the intranet with a basic education platform called IntraBACH in the community where he teaches, Abasolo, a place with high marginalization, with over 2,000 inhabitants who speak Tzeltal, and with poor public services.

“Although I taught, few students fully understood what I said and I began to worry; I looked for a more contextualized tool to reach them, and thus my journey began,” he said.

In an artisanal way, he gave his students and colleagues basic IT and communications tools for them to use the contextualized multimedia material, creating a space of appropriation of the project from the students.

Hugo Feliciano Hernández Gómex, IntraBACH collaborator, shared with EFE his experience as a translator from Spanish into Tzeltal for this intranet.

“This is a difficult language to write because it has infinite variants according to the region made up by the 11 Tzeltal speaking municipalities; each region has its variant,” he explained.

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He asserted that “it is hard to write Tzeltal; we are good to speak it, but we have to study a lot to know the grammar; we need to understand and refine our hearing to be able to write it as such.”

The purpose “is to make known the language of my people, because my town, Abasolo, is not very known; I’ll make its writing and culture known; that’s what I think of sharing the material in Tzeltal,” he said.

Hernández knows that he will not receive funding for his project but he considers its dissemination necessary for people “to know the culture, the variant, its use; that is my goal too,” he added.

With time, the project has become stronger with over 5,000 contents in Spanish and Tzeltal for students of elementary, junior high, and high school to be able to access and search the virtual libraries, as explained to EFE Carina Gómez López, local from Abasolo and high-school student.

“The platform includes a book called The Little Prince translated into Tzeltal and I like that. It has a dictionary, the words, the story, I like that a lot,” she mentioned as an example.

The project has been installed in other 35 schools giving an easy and useful tool for students of communities in extreme poverty and where it is hard to have access to the Internet, whether it is because of the economic or political situations of each community since they still maintain their habits and customs.

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“It’s an ambitious project to have connectivity because of resources and infrastructure; our work was born in Abasolo accompanied by other three projects,” added Alvarado saying that this project has inspired other communities and states.

“Many have reached out to ask for advice and ask for the installation of an Internet network and a local intranet where they can generate their own content, for many communities are closed to change, which allows them to preserve their habits and customs,” he expressed.

The final dream, he said, is for this project to spread all over Chiapas and to be replicated in other states in Mexico and in the world.

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