Indigenous Teen Set Ablaze for 'Speaking in Otomi' at High School in Mexico

The city's State prosecutors have declared that they will probe the racial assault.

2 min read

In a horrific racial attack, Juan Zamorano, an Indigenous minor, was set ablaze by his classmates "for speaking in Otomi" at a high school in Mexico's Queretaro on 6 June.

The 14-year-old was released from the hospital this week after receiving treatment for second and third-degree burns, AFP reported.

The city's State prosecutors have declared that they will probe the incident, with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador suggesting that the country's attorney general's office may take care of the case.

"We cannot forget the case of Juan Zamorano...his only crime was speaking Otomi," Lopez Obrador's spokesperson, Jesus Ramirez, tweeted in Spanish on Monday, 11 July.

He added, "Eradicating racism from our society is everyone's business. Peace is only possible if there is mutual respect."

The Incident & What the Family Said

Two students from Juan's class have been accused of dousing Zamorano's seat in alcohol and burning him.

As per a statement by his family, the 14-year-old stood up after he realized his trousers were wet, and one of the accused set fire to his clothes.

The Otomi boy had already been subjected to weeks of racial harassment and bullying before the incident took place, the family's counsel said.

Speaking to AFP, one of the family's lawyers, Ernesto Franco, indicated that Juan resisted speaking in his mother tongue because "it's a cause of ridicule, harassment and bullying."

The family also told the media that the school authorities were complicit in this harassment, and that a teacher had also bullied the teen because of his Indigenous roots.


National Institute of Indigenous Peoples Condemns Attack

Meanwhile, Mexico's National Institute of Indigenous Peoples has asked the authorities to "sanction minors and adults involved in harassment and recurring attacks on minors," AFP reported.

In a statement, it added, "Urgent measures are needed in schools to prevent further cases of discrimination and racism."

With an estimated population of 350,000, the Otomi are one of dozens of Indigenous groups in the Latin American country.

(With inputs from AFP.)

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