01.01.03. Key languages, ethnic groups and minority groups | Mexico

01.01.03. Key languages, ethnic groups and minority groups | Mexico

11 Jul 2022

Spanish is the official language of Mexico but there are also 68 indigenous languages originated in Mexico. The predominant and currently most spoken indigenous languages are Nahuatl (23.4%), Maya (11.6%), Tseltal (7.5%), and Mixteco (7.0%). Those who speak these four languages represent almost 50% of total population that speaks an indigenous language (INEGI, 2015b).

Classification of indigenous populations in national surveys and administrative records is done in two ways. The first asks individuals aged 3 years or above if they speak an indigenous language. In 2015, using this classification, 7.2 million indigenous people were identified, representing 6.6% of the total population of the country (INEGI, 2015b). Although the majority also speaks Spanish, 11.3% of the indigenous population speaks only their indigenous language. The states with the highest proportion of indigenous population are in the South of the country in the states of Oaxaca, Yucatán, and Chiapas, where the indigenous population represents one third of total population (INEGI, 2015b).

Another indicator to classify the indigenous population is self-recognition as indigenous or belonging to an indigenous group, even if an indigenous language is not spoken. Using this indicator, 27.5 million people self-recognise as indigenous or belonging to an indigenous group, which is greater than the number of people who speak an indigenous language (21.5% vs. 6.6% of the population). Another important group comprehends those who consider themselves Afro descendants, which are 1.4 million people, and represent 1.2% of the national population. Belonging to or self-identifying as indigenous or Afro-descendant, is associated with a lower number of years of schooling, especially in women, and limited access to health services (INEGI, 2015b).


INEGI. (2015b). Encuesta Intercensal 2015 Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, 1, 85–90. http://internet.contenidos.inegi.org.mx/contenidos/Productos/prod_serv/contenidos/espanol/bvinegi/productos/nueva_estruc/702825078966.pdf