Oral traditions and the use of information and communications technology

Fechas de implementación
07/02/2017 - 31/05/2018
Países
El Salvador
Contacto
National Directorate of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage of El Salvador’s Department of Culture

Goals

  • Recognize and document the oral traditions of Santo Domingo de Guzmán with the support of primary and secondary school Náhuat youth from the Educational Complex of Santo Domingo.
  • Create a bilingual inventory of the oral traditions of the region through the use of information and communication technologies.

Description

An awareness of the very low number of Náhuat speakers and a decline in intergenerational transmission in Santo Domingo de Guzmán, El Salvador, led to the implementation of a project aiming to document, in both Náhuat and Spanish, the region’s oral traditions. This initiative allowed youth to access knowledge transmitted from generation to generation about the history, mythology, tales and legends of the municipality, through interviews with older members of the community. In addition, they acquired information and communication technology (ICT) skills, contributing to their academic formation and their own lives more generally; the purpose being to raise awareness about the culture of their community, to value it and to safeguard it.

Community participation

Twenty-five students between the ages of fifteen and seventeen together with a group of teachers from the Educational Complex of Santo Domingo undertook a community-based inventorying exercise in collaboration with the municipality, the House of Culture and the Community Development Association. The students conducted interview sessions with a focus group composed of senior traditional knowledge holders (mainly Náhuat speakers). The latter shared collective narratives, which were recorded and systematized. Public meetings were also held in which these groups, along with teachers and other community members, completed and approved the data to be published. As a result of this collaborative work, the students were able to gather thirty-two narratives, thereby helping to preserve indigenous memory through documented oral traditions. In addition, the local initiative La Cuna Náhuat (The Nahuat Cradle), dedicated to integrating the teaching of Náhuat in early education, assisted with the translation of four chapters of the main resulting publication – an inventory book.

Safeguarding and use of oral traditions in educational contexts

Indigenous oral traditions are acknowledged in El Salvador’s State Development Plan (2014-2019), which establishes in its Objective 8 the protection of the culture and identity of indigenous peoples, as well as the promotion and recognition of their cultural and natural heritage. Based on this mandate, a local committee was created to ensure compliance with the measures to preserve Náhuat oral traditions, considered to be intangible cultural heritage of El Salvador. The group brings together the actions of the Ministry of Culture, the House of Culture of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, along with the municipality, La Cuna Náhuat and knowledge-holders. Higher educational institutions have also taken part. In particular, the Technological University of El Salvador founded the Náhuat Indigenous Chair to monitor and protect these oral traditions.

In the local educational context, activities such as those of Cuna Náhuat have benefitted from the inventory, and the book has been used as a pedagogical resource in the bilingual teaching of children. Through coordination with the Ministry of Education, its content will be integrated into subject areas of the local school curriculum as a didactic support. More broadly, the project contributes to the safeguarding of local intangible cultural heritage (ICH) that can that can be replicated in other educational centres and applied in additional localities where Náhuat oral traditions are present.

Output

  • An inventory that compiles myths, legends, stories and traditional knowledge in Santo Domingo de Guzmán, published in print and digital formats in both Náhuat and Spanish.


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