Dr. Jaime Torres Bodet

From a speech given by Jaime Torres Bodet, Secretary of Public Education in Mexico, at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Mexico. January 24, 1961 (translation)



Mr. President of the Patronato, honorable ambassadors, distinguished members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen:

This 25th anniversary celebration of the date the Instituto Lingüístico de Verano [Summer Institute of Linguistics] began its activities in Mexico is a source of personal satisfaction to us. The service the Institute has performed for Mexico attests to its members' generosity of spirit combined with a desire to safeguard in very significant ways the traditions and folklore of our country.

From its inception, the Institute has organized intensive summer courses for young linguists desirous of honing their skills through the study of the indigenous languages. Their work was later expanded to include the teaching of Spanish to groups of monolingual villagers. They also devoted similar labor to the preparation of dictionaries, vocabularies and primers as well as to the translation of texts from Spanish into the local languages. Carrying out this program has resulted in interesting articles in the field of social anthropology. Some of these members of the Institute also made a great effort to record in written form indigenous stories and legends that often exhibited an air of mystery and subtle charm.

Under the auspices of the Institute, persevering investigators have been able to analyze the morphology of a number of the languages. Thanks to their work, books have been prepared including textbooks for linguistic courses and teaching materials for use by the indigenous groups. All of this scientific work, which has earned our gratitude and appreciation, is reinforced by the compilation of vocabularies among which are the recent ones for Tarahumara, Cora and Zapoteco.

Faced with such a large body of work, I must limit my remarks to a brief summary--the Institute certainly has not reduced the scope of their work! This work has enriched the cultural wealth of the linguistic discipline in general. This is especially true of the publication of dictionaries, some of which have been reprinted several times. Let me acknowledge the presence among us today of Dr. Kenneth L. Pike, president of the Linguistic Society of America for 1961. I also want to recognize the presence of members of the Diplomatic Corps as well as a number of scholars from various countries seated around this table. Their presence demonstrates the high esteem in which the Institute is held internationally...

Many of our Mexican institutions have recognized the benefits to Mexico of the work of the Institute. A number of Cabinet Secretaries have taken an interest in this work as has the National Autonomous University of Mexico. I want to mention the significant technical and social benefits that have been realized through the cooperation of the Institute and the National Indian Institute under the direction of Dr. Alfonso Caso. This cooperation has resulted in the preparation of alphabets and primers and most recently the beautiful book, Cuentos Mixes (Mixe Legends) compiled by Walter S. Miller. Because of the concern of the Interamerican Indian Institute, of which our country is a member, I wish to mention the good will towards the work which brings us here today on the part of Dr. Manuel Gamio. He was convinced of the importance of using anthropological criteria to investigate the origins, precolonial and colonial history and current characteristics of the indigenous cultures. He felt this was the only way to understand their make-up, their civilization and their language.

Any discussion of the work of the Instituto Lingüístico de Verano would be incomplete without mention of its founder, Professor William Cameron Townsend. The high esteem with which he is regarded should be a source of great satisfaction to him. This greeting comes with heartfelt congratulations and best wishes for the future. Ladies and gentlemen, the work of the Institute in the service of science contributes to a better cultural and social balance in all the countries which, like ours, look with legitimate pride on their indigenous inheritance and know that their progress as nations should not be the advancement of a privileged minority but of all their citizens, I repeat, of all their citizens, without the discrimination which is incompatible with the exercise of a free, just and enlightened democracy.