The strategy of attention to indigenous minors in elementary schools in the metropolitan area of Monterrey (AMM) will soon reach its adulthood. It was during the academic year of 1998-1999 when the Secretary of Education of Nuevo León (SENL) created the Indigenous Education Department (DEI), taking advantage of an initial link with the Indigenous Education General Management (DGEI). In this way, a program was set up, and to this day its purpose has been “to serve with equity and pertinence the educational needs of indigenous girls and boys,” particularly in the general elementary schools located in the municipalities of Escobedo, Monterrey, Santa Catarina and Juárez.

During almost 18 years of this work, the DEI has promoted actions oriented towards a paradigm or model of “bilingual intercultural education.” The conditions under which this work has developed, are far from adequate: a growing number of schools with the presence of minors of indigenous origin to cover and a very limited budget that deterred a similar growth in the number of the bilingual teachers affiliated with this Department, also indigenous, trained as “normalistas” or in careers in the area of education. Answering the demand at the lowest possible cost, has characterized state policy in this matter, at least during the 2009-2015 administration.

If the undertaken strategy were to truly focus only on nahua, teenek or otomí boys and girls (among others), as it has in recent years, it’s possible that many would think of the task as partially achieved, perhaps of a process that should be reviewed on the basis of the current circumstances of the migrant indigenous population in the metropolitan area. But the situation of cultural diversity in Monterrey exceeds by far the historical dichotomy between the “mestizo” and the “indio”.

People from all over the world, each with their own particular cultural baggage (working, spiritual, etc.) encounter each other daily within a metropolitan context where, from a very selective and stereotypical point of view, some are “migrants” (indigenous or undocumented Central Americans) and others are “foreigners.” The treatment we give to non-native people from Nuevo León is guided, generally speaking, by this distinction based on the origin of each immigrant.

This sort of differentiation reaches the educational sector. To date intercultural education has been thought of as a proposal focused on the indigenous, instead of an integral strategy for the cultural diversity, that could be central to the state’s educational system. The current approach conducted by the government of Nuevo León is based on a biased vision of the state’s pluricultural reality, of what is occurring in the metropolitan area of Monterrey in particular. This bias does not allow for said diversity to present itself as a feature that characterizes us all in a natural way and not only the indigenous. The mestiza population native to the state, Europeans, Americans, Asians, etc., form a multicultural mosaic alongside the otomíes, zapotecos, mixtecos, among others. Inter-culture is an approach that must go further than the classroom and enrich itself from the reality of our metropolis and its different situations of welfare for some and precariousness for others.

Inter-culture as an educational approach, indeed, starts by visualizing the diversity present amongst students and the rest of the academic community (teachers, as well as mothers and fathers, included). This is a point of departure from which we should move towards the particularities of each individual (children, in this case) in their social, cultural, and economic circumstances. In other words, the strategy has to include contextual elements: opportunities, tensions and conflicts that correspond to a minor and to his/her family in order to recognize, interrelate and exchange or share knowledge with people who have different cultural baggage. Does equity exist among all the cultures participating or involved in the educational process? On the contrary, can a culture and/or hegemonic system (like education, for example) which maintains the rectory over the type of knowledge, evaluation and transcendence that these merit, be identified? What social actor or actors have occupied the intercultural education discourse in Nuevo León in recent years?

To summarize, what we have so far as an intercultural educational strategy is a unilateral policy that functions according to state interests. At the same time, the bulk of the population (all of us), selectively chooses those cultural aspects or features susceptible to support within the hegemonic urban model of society. In this way, coming back to the circumstances of the indigenous migrants in Nuevo León, it becomes attractive and “politically correct” to recognize in an insubstantial way the indigenous people like the nahua, through spaces where they are exhibited as dancers, where part of their gastronomy is shown, or they are dressed up with “traditional” clothing for them to sing the national anthem or to interpret any poem or a trendy musical theme in a vernacular language. What we really admire or recognize as a society in these kind of acts is an insubstantial “other,” devoid of his/her circumstances and social, economic and political problems. The claims or complaints of individuals or indigenous collectives of labor rights violations, or of insufficient state attention in more complex situations like health services or that of the educational sector are overlooked, since they give rise to conflict and reveal a state apparatus lacking the knowledge, will and sensitivity to repair itself on the basis of the intercultural relations that the pluricultural metropolitan reality demands.

I want to close with a reminder that the relations and tensions which emerge in a pluricultural society, like those which shape the metropolitan area of Monterrey, are much broader and more complex than the internal indigenous migration from the center and south of the country. While the educational sector of Nuevo León must deal with such complexity in the corresponding fields, and amplify its criteria and strategies for an equally complex diversity, we must also put on the table our own attitudes, preferences and prejudices in front of a culturally diverse context.

The challenge of an intercultural policy that has education as a core concept, for it to go farther in a pluricultural social reality, it must contemplate strategies that go beyond the remembrance of Pre-Hispanic cultures and the folkloric vision. This characterization subsumes indigenous peoples in an antiquated role and inconsistent with the challenges and inequities of Nuevo León and, particularly, of our metropolitan area, which at the same time ignores the rest of the equally diverse, rich and conflictive society.

*This content was translated Exactly as published in Levadura by Alejandro Martínez Canales. This picture was not included in the article. To see the original post, please click on