68 Voices, 68 Hearts: “No one can love what they don’t know”

An interview with Gabriela Badillo, founder of 68 Voices

From Mexico, Gabriela Badillo is producer of “68 Voices” a series of indigenous animated stories narrated in their Native languages. They were created under the premise of “No one can love what one doesn’t know,” in order to promote pride, respect, and the use of Native tongues. It also helps to reduce discrimination and promote pride towards all the communities and cultures that make up the cultural richness of Mexico.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://68voces.mx/projects

SEE MORE VIDEOS: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCivRXbPMMuE1XJYIFl61wRw/videos

What is 68 Voices? “68 Voices 68 Hearts (” 68 Voices “) is a series of animated indigenous stories narrated in their original language, created in the 68 indigenous languages ​​of Mexico, under the premise “Nobody can love what they don’t know.” It was created in order to help foster pride, respect, and the use of indigenous Mexican languages ​​between speakers and non-speakers. As well as to help reduce discrimination and foster a sense of pride towards all communities and cultures that are part of the cultural richness that makes up Mexico. To love diversity.

Right now, we are halfway through its production. We have 35 stories, 35 hearts visible, we are missing 33. We are looking for funds to continue with its production and also focusing on the 35 we already have. It is a project that is currently being disseminated by networks, through the internet and by Canal 11 (of Mexican television), the National Institute of Indigenous Languages ​​(INALI), and the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) that are the main sponsors of this project.

To date, what we have done is create a compilation of oral tradition stories, giving rise to these other stories and the wealth that older adults have, grandparents, to foster a bond. In a next step, also thanks to our work with INALI for two years, we have been doing more direct work with the communities. It is not a project created for the community, but with the community.

The latest stories we have done have been based on workshops with children, so that the drawings of the children are the ones that come to life in animation, and right there, the adults tell us what stories we are going to portray. We seek to be a trigger, a spark that can generate new actions within communities, within schools, with young people. It is a nonprofit project, it is totally open on the internet, on the 68voces.mx website, and also transmitted on community television, so that it can reach everyone and so that new actions can be generated.

How do you get ahead, in the face of folklorization and that “culture of invisibility” of indigenous people? For many years we were educated to understand that indigenous peoples were dead cultures instead of living cultures, acting and proposing solutions, that have an active presence. How do we get ahead and break with this logic created through colonization?

I think it has been the work of many people, many institutions and many efforts, over many years. INALI has already, if I remember, been operation for 30 years; it is an institute in Mexico, which is the National Institute of Indigenous Languages, and there are many similar efforts by different institutions. Colonization in Mexico, specifically under the Porfiriato [a term used to designate the period of Porfirio Díaz’s dictatorship], was designated so that the whole community should be homogeneous, and it was forbidden to speak indigenous languages. Little by little that consciousness has changed, giving rise to all kinds of people who speak different languages, and also emphasizing that, on the contrary, instead of being something bad, it is something enriching. All the wonder that these languages ​​represent; the language seen as the tip of the iceberg with everything behind it: culture, traditions, histories, the community that it represents.

[penci_video url=”https://youtu.be/dQQpjEdtYH8″ align=”center” width=”” /]

What has been your strategy to make this project accessible to more young people, and even for example to the 35 million Mexicans who live in the United States? Maybe even thinking about the millions of Mexican who are cultural heirs but stayed on this side, who did not cross the border, but the border crossed them when the United States was left with half of our territory. How can we make this space accessible to these people?

The truth is that, personally, I have been surprised. The project arose 5 years ago, arose from a personal need to do something for others through what I know how to do, which is to tell stories, and specifically also on the subject of indigenous languages. My grandfather had Mayan ancestry, he was from Yucatan, a Maxcanu. When I started, it was very personal, and as the project has evolved, as time has gone by, it was a surprise for me to see the interest of certain institutions to promote it, which has been great in terms of dissemination (as with INALI and Canal Once), and also through social networks.

It has gone viral to reach a lot of people, especially in the United States. With Mexicans or Latinos who were on the other side, or are on the other side, and who also have a need to connect; a need to return to their roots, or to exalt themselves more and more about who they are. It is strange, but in fact, those who are outside are the ones who value it the most. The comments that come to us are mostly from outsiders, who miss home or who are proud to be part of any of these communities. And I think it almost always happens, that when people feel they have lost a space–in this case territory, family, culture–they miss it and that’s also why it has been become viral within this community.

How can we deconstruct this process, to understand and help the country understand that we are different, that that it is how it should be, that we do not have to “wear a uniform.” We don’t all have to be equal, speak the same nor think the same?

I think it’s a matter of raising awareness, of making people aware, that’s the premise of the project: “Nobody can love what they don’t know.” We can promote pride just by making the richness that already exists known–cultural richness, linguistic wealth, in art, in history–and that through this knowledge, we are able to promote pride.

I think we can accomplish this little by little… As I was saying, there are many examples and projects that little by little have been educating the public not only on the indigenous issue, on the subject of being part of an indigenous community, but on many issues. I truly believe that this is a moment where we are raising awareness about diversity, and part of what we look for in the project is to find love and wealth in diversity. [penci_video url=”https://youtu.be/eQ0e8z5v4kc” align=”center” width=”” /]How have you experienced the projection of this work, 68 voices, in indigenous communities? What do people tell you, thinking about how they can build these processes of resilience, of reempowerment in the community? What inspires your work?

The feedback that we’ve received has been very nice, and honestly, of gratitude to a certain point,  for making them visible. We are not the panacea, nor the ones who are going to give solutions, but the project is generating a conversation, like placing a small grain of sand to generate a conversation, and other things will come out of that. I think that the specific goal, at least, has been achieved through this project, that these communities have seen it and have been thankful for helping them make their culture and language visible, giving them a place in society, giving them a voice.

What is the most creatively challenging and beautiful part of what you have lived through this project?

I do not know if the word is challenging. For me, the most beautiful thing has been to learn that all that great variety and wealth exists. I think that most of us here, most Mexicans, understand that there is a great cultural richness, but there’s so much of it that we don’t really know.

I have loved to learn about the stories with this project, to get to know the people above all, and to listen them come to life through their voices, and to know that all these stories are part of or have been created by these communities. Stories about how they do not have water, stories of why there is only palm oil plantations in their territory, stories that have made them what they are now and, as such, are making up this country. A reporter just asked me how I catalogued myself, meaning, she said… How people were cataloguing themselves, “a pues, I am Zapoteco” “I am Mayan” or “I am …” But for me that already excludes others, and I think what it’s important and what I also draw from the project, is that I am Mexican. And for me, being Mexican means all this diversity and what makes us incredible as Mexicans.

* Creative Director and co-founder of HOLA COMBO, producer focused on developing audiovisual content that believes in the social responsibility we have, as a means of communication. A designer from the Universidad Iberoamericana, she took Televisa’s Design and Animation as a specialty, where she was part of the Imaginantes project. With over 12 years of experience her work has been recognized in various national and international publications and festivals, such as New York Festival, Promax-BDA, Ariel, Annecy among others, as well as by the National Fund for Culture and the Arts where thanks to the Coinversiones scholarship, she created the series 68 Voices-68 Hearts.