MEXICO: In the wake of ongoing racial discrimination in various parts of the world, namely in First World countries like the United States (US) where the Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum following police brutality against black people.
The fear of people speaking another language, belonging to a different caste is an anxiety that is not lost on us. Incidents of racial discrimination and casteism are still prevalent in different corners of the world and only come to the surface when they are reported.
Otherwise, most are hidden and go unreported and unchecked. This is exactly how xenophobic extremists can express hate, unhinged. Mexico grapples with its xenophobic urge to eliminate indigenous groups and even black lives in its community, by displaying such acts of cowardice which only incite more hatred and fear.
A Mexican schoolboy was deliberately set on fire in a classroom for speaking his native tongue, an indigenous language called Otomi, spoken in the Central Altiplano region of Mexico. The incident took place in the central state of Queretaro in June.
Two classmates stand accused of pouring alcohol on 14-year-old Juan Zamorano’s seat. He later realized his trousers were wet and stood up, following which one of the accused set him on fire, revealed his family, as reported by AFP.
The 14-year-old suffered second and third-degree burns and was discharged this week from the hospital. Zamorano’s only crime is that he embraced his Otomi heritage and spoke the language, for which he has been consistently harassed and bullied by students and peers alike.
The family’s lawyer claims Zamorano’s teacher harassed him because of his origin. “She thinks that we’re not her class, we’re not her race,” Zamorano’s father, who described the attack as “attempted murder”, told the newspaper El Universal.
Zamorano has also faced contempt and condemnation from his classmates, which compelled his parents to sue the alleged attackers and school authorities.
This racial incident stirred Mexico’s National Institute of Indigenous Peoples who urged the authorities to “Sanction minors and adults involved in harassment and recurring attacks on minors.”
It further added that policies, regulations and measures must be placed in schools to curb such incidents of racism and discrimination.
The Otomi are one of the dozens of indigenous groups in the Latin American country with an estimated population of 350,000. Despite being his mother tongue, Zamorano barely spoke the language “Because it’s a cause of ridicule, harassment and bullying,” one of the family’s lawyers, Ernesto Franco told AFP.
The matter became so serious that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ensured that, if necessary, the country’s attorney general’s office would be moved to handle the case. Obrador’s spokesperson Jesus Ramirez noted that eradicating racism was a universal responsibility.