A Mexican boy was on fire and was severely burned in the classroom. His “only crime” spoke the language of indigenous peoples in countries struggling to end racism.
In June, two classmates were accused of pouring alcohol into the seat of Juan Zamorano in a high school in central Queretaro.
According to the family, one of them set fire to Zamorano when he noticed that his 14-year-old trousers were getting wet and standing up.
He suffered two and three burns and was discharged only this week.
According to family lawyers, Juan has already suffered from bullying for weeks due to the roots of the indigenous Otomi tribe and has filed complaints against attackers and suspected school officials.
The Otomi, with an estimated population of 350,000, is one of the dozens of indigenous peoples in Latin America.
Otomi is Juan’s native language. “But he doesn’t want to talk too much because it causes ridicule, harassment and bullying,” Ernesto Franco, one of his family’s lawyers, told AFP.
The family insisted on the media that even Zamorano’s teacher harassed him because of his origin.
“She thinks we’re not in her class and we’re not her race,” Zamorano’s father, who described the attack as an “attempted murder,” told the newspaper El Universal.
Queretaro prosecutors have announced an investigation into the attack, and the suspect faces potential legal proceedings.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the state’s law firm could handle the case if necessary.
Juan’s “the only crime was talking about the Otomi,” tweeted Lopez Obrador spokesman Jesus Ramirez, saying it was everyone’s responsibility to eradicate racism.
The National Institute of Indigenous Peoples of Mexico has called on authorities to “sanction minors and adults involved in harassment and repeated attacks on minors.”
It said schools need urgent action to prevent further cases of discrimination and racism.
According to the 2020 census, discrimination is a country of 126 million people, 23.2 million are indigenous and more than 7.3 million speak indigenous languages.
In the March incident, an Otomi woman accused it of being customer-only, saying that staff at a restaurant near trendy Mexico City prevented the use of toilets.
A survey released by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2018 complained that about 40% of indigenous peoples faced discrimination.
Almost half felt that their rights were little or no respected.
The survey also revealed prejudices against indigenous peoples.
Three out of ten people asked agreed with the statement that “indigenous poverty is due to their culture.”
Incidents like Samorano are not isolated, but part of systematic racism, said Alexandra Haas, Mexico’s representative of the international charity Oxfam.
According to an Oxfam study in Mexico in 2019, equating with an indigenous language-speaking, indigenous, black, or mixed-ethnic community, or having a darker skin color could improve education and workforce. It means that the sex is low.
Mexico has a law aimed at preventing discrimination and has established a responsible body for dealing with complaints.
Still, Mr. Zamorano’s case is a clear indication of “how far discrimination can go,” said Haas, a former president of the country’s National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination.
“It’s not unpredictable. There has been racial, indigenous, and highly structural discrimination over the centuries,” she said.