When their family migrated to the United States, fellow Mexicans discriminated against them outright. Eventually the brothers started to look into their roots deeper. Along with other slurs, Arcenio recalled that he was called Oaxacito because of his darker complexion and his small stature, which was typical of the indigenous population. His research led him to realize that his language gave him a distinct identity.
The Lopez brothers now live in Texas and California and spend most of their time in trying to reverse the deeds of many generations that pushed indigenous languages like Mixtec nearly to extinction.
Arcenio and Noe Lopez represent a rising number of Latinos in America who endeavor to keep their indigenous language even if they have to put up with discrimination. There are many other groups and societies that are working to preserve indigenous and endangered languages. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in the United States provide federal funding for the documentation of endangered languages. An online project of the University of Texas at Austin is the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), which has materials on 24 endangered languages from Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia.
One of the projects of the NEH and the NSF is the documentation of Ayook, a language that is believed to have ties to one of Latin America’s earliest influential cultures. There are still 5,000 people that speak the language in Totontepec, Mexico. The village elders were trained to document their language on audio and video and some members of the community have been trained in analysis, translation and transcription of their language in order to preserve and revive it.
New York City has a high number of Mexicans who came from Guerrero and Oaxaca, thus a dialect of Mixtec is the most encountered language in the city.
The Endangered Language Alliance documents and creates awareness about these rare languages, although it is more focused on providing workshops so that speakers could interact with other people. The project enables the Alliance to find interpreters for schools and healthcare providers.
Arcenio Lopez is working at the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project where he is the executive director. The project, which is based in Oxnard, California also helps in bringing interpreters to schools and they are working on creating a radio station to air music and shows in Zapotec and Mixteco. Their radio station project is set to launch in July. What he hopes is that they would eventually be able to teach people to speak and write these indigenous languages.