Ambassador: (Benny) Sungbin Hwang
Representing: Embassy of Mexico in Korea
Month: October 2019
Update: Miguel León-Portilla’s Death
Miguel León-Portilla died on Tuesday, October 1st. 2019. He was an important figure in Mexico recognized by being a philosopher, historian, humanist and linguist who had a dream about indigenous peoples to be valued and recognized with their rights. To recognize his death, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, sent condolences to his family recognizing him as “ a strong defender of native cultures.” Other government officials also sent condolences and described him in a positively diverse way. Esteban Moctezuma, the Secretary of Public Education, quoted him as “one of the intellectual summists of cour country.” Meanwhile, in the culture side, Alejandra Frausto, Secretary of Culture, pronounced his academic’s work as a “voice to the defeated.”
Miguel León-Portilla contributed his whole life to the native cultures. He showed an outstanding passion through his areas of studies and great commitment. Portilla received the Belisario Dominguez-which is a medal that is given to a person who contributed to the Mexico Government in a greater value-in 1995 and he was a member of the National College since March 23rd, 1971. During his academic career, Portilla studied Nahua language and literature (native group in Mexico) and had an unusual depth of understanding. Not only in Mexico but the United States also recognized his knowledge and passions. Hence, the Library of Congress in December 2013 awarded Portilla with the “Living Legend Award.” Although, according to Portilla, his greatest recognition was the nickname of “Great Tlacuilo of the Nahuatl Language.” The nickname was from the Ancient Mexico times, a nickname for a person who painted or wrote hieroglyphs, ideograms, and pictograms.
Spreading the knowledge of Nahuatl Culture, Portilla wrote a book called Vision of the Defeated. This book was a series of testimonies and paintings that describe the impact the conquest had on Nahuatl culture. This book got internationally published and translated into more than 20 languages, such as Russian, English, Japanese, German, French. Portilla even wrote a poem with a title of When a language dies. Here is the poem:
When a tongue dies,
Many have already died
And many can die
Forever broken mirrors,
Shadow of voices
Humanity is impoverished.
“What interested me most in life is to continue fighting side by side with the indigenous peoples, with the native peoples, in defense of their languages and culture: the deepest root of Mexico, our great wealth,” said Portilla for expressing his reasons of writing works of literature. Miguel León-Portilla overall, always loved teaching because it was the noblest way to share knowledge. Furthermore, Portilla wanted to teach until the last day of his life. As a Mexico Embassy of Korea’s farewell ambassador, Miguel León-Portilla’s work and effort should be internationally recognized. For Miguel León-Portilla, may the souls of the deceased refrain.
“A Celebration of Mexico Speakers.” Miguel León-Portilla - Speakers - A Celebration of Mexico | Library of Congress, 12 Dec. 2013, www.loc.gov/celebration-of-mexico/speakers/leon-portilla.html.
Medel, Leticia Sánchez. “Miguel León Portilla Murió a Los 93 Años.” Miguel León Portilla Murió a Los 93 Años, 1 Oct. 2019, www.milenio.com/cultura/miguel-leon-portilla-murio-93-anos.
“The World Factbook: Mexico.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 1 Feb. 2018, www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/mx.html.
Benny Hwang is a senior at Korea International School, Jeju Campus, with a passion for policy and people. He intends to attend university in the United States, where he will major in international relations and public policy.