DECOLONIZE: Lanugage- “Spanish Words” with Indigenous Roots

When I was a child I was taught about how Christopher Columbus, or Cristóbal Colón for hispanoparlantes, discovered America. It wasn’t until much later that I would learn that not only did he not discover America (as there were already inhabitants there), but also there was nothing benign about his encounter with these indigenous people.


For centuries we have celebrated a man that represented the rape, pillaging, genocide, and colonization of a people that had been thriving for thousands of years before foreign “discovery.” To celebrate Columbus is to spit in the face of Indigenous resistance—resistance against cultural and physical genocide, against deforestation, against displacement. Today, these people continue to persist, exist, and fight back for their land and their rights even as the world relegates them to the fringes of society or declares them extinct.

Neither Spanish nor English are the native tongues of the “New World.” There was and still is a linguistic diversity in the Americas and as we celebrate Day of Indigenous Resistance I’d like to draw attention to a few of the many “Spanish” words that actually have Indigenous roots. This is important because decolonizing language and properly attributing the etymologies is one of the ways we address colonial theft/plagiarism. The following is a slideshow of 14 “Spanish” words that come from Nahuatl, Quechua, Arawak, Taíno, Carib, and the Tupi-Guarani languages.

I hope it inspires you to celebrate Day of Indigenous Resistance rather than celebrating the “achievements” of a dude who was really just lost and happened to stumble upon a place he thought was somewhere else. There is nothing particularly great about that, but fighting back in the face of cultural, physical, and environmental annihilation: that’s worth celebrating.

So without further ado here are the slides:
NOTE: In the slideshow, American culture is meant to include Central and South America and the Antilles.


Day of Indigenous Resistance


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