“Spread your ass cheeks”: And other things that should not be said in indigenous languages



In this article, I describe the use of indigenous-language swearwords by the younger generation in the Cucapá settlement of El Mayor in northern Mexico. I argue that this vocabulary functions as a critique of and a challenge to the increasingly formalized imposition of indigenous-language capacity as a measure of authenticity and as both a formal and an informal criterion for the recognition of indigenous rights. I argue that this ethnographic case can also be read as a critique of the notion of language as a cultural repository popularized in recent linguistic anthropological literature on language endangerment. For the youth in El Mayor, indigenous identity is not located in the Cucapá language but in an awareness of a shared history of the injustices of colonization and a continuing legacy of state indifference. [language death, indigenous people, politics of recognition, Mexico, swearwords, identity, language ideology]