International Mother Language Day: An Abbreviated History

UNESCO/UN News Centre

While some may just know February for its untimely and unnatural spurt of roses and manufacturing of chocolate, it may also help to know that February 21st is known as the International Mother Language Day officiated in 1999 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The purpose of this celebration is to give recognition to an estimated 7,000 languages spoken internationally. This day, also known as Language Martyr’s Day, commemorates students who were killed by police in 1952 for demonstrating for the recognition of their main language, Bangla.

After the end of British rule over India and Pakistan in 1947, Pakistan was split into two and was separated by India: East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan). As the founder of the new government of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared Urdu the official language despite the fact that the majority of East Pakistan spoke Bangla. Then, on January 27, 1952, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Khwaja Nazimuddin reiterated Ali Jinnah’s declaration of a state language which led to an organized demonstration by Bengali students. In a blog post from 2012, Dr. Salman Al-Azami describes the events as follows:

“The leaders of the ‘Language Action Committee’ in East Pakistan decided to call a hartal (general strike) and organized demonstrations and processions on 21 February throughout East Pakistan. The government imposed a ban on demonstrators, a ban the people defied. Police fired upon the defiant activists, killing several with more killed on the following day.”

Finally, on February 16, 1956, the National Assembly of Pakistan declared Urdu and Bangla as the official state languages.

So this February, let us not forget the people who sacrificed their lives to protect their mother language and for the opportunity to commemorate them through International Mother Language Day. Let’s celebrate everyday by speaking and learning the mother language of our ancestors and of our neighbors around the world.

Here are some recommended readings if you’d like to more about the Bangla Language movement and International Mother Language Day.

Salman Al-Azami, “The Bangla Language Movement and Ghulam Azam” (February 2013) [A short article to brush up on the history of the Bangla Language Movement.]

UNESCO, “International Mother Language Day” (February 2012) [This UNESCO guide contains a variety of relevant resources.]

To start your research on Bangladesh, check out the following materials from the University of Illinois Library.

The crisis on the Indian subcontinent and the birth of Bangladesh: a selected reading list.
by Kayastha, Ved P. Published 1972
Call Number: Z3186 .K36 1972
Location: International & Area Studies Ref Asian [non-circulating]

Pakistan & Bangladesh: bibliographic essays in social science /
Published 1976
Call Number: Z3196 .P34 1976
Location: International & Area Studies Ref Asian [non-circulating]

Bangladesh, a select bibliography of English language periodical literature, 1971-1986 /
by Rahim, Joyce L. Published 1986
Call Number: Z3186 .R33 1986 Cop. 1
Location: International & Area Studies Ref Asian [non-circulating]

Essays on Ekushey, the language movement, 1952 /
Published 1994
Call Number: 306.4495492 ES73
Location: Main Stacks

Banglapedia: national encyclopedia of Bangladesh /
Published 2003
Call Number: DS393 .B38 2003 v.6
Location: International & Area Studies Ref Asian [non-circulating]

Bangladesh since 1952 language movement /
by Adhikari, Abanti Published 2011
Call Number: 954.92 Ad42b
Location: Main Stacks

Finally, make sure to stop by the International and Area Studies Library on the 3rd floor of the Main Library, Room 321. We have a variety of relevant reference materials and Mara Thacker, subject specialist for South Asia, will be happy to help you with your research.

Happy International Mother Language Day!

Ready for Rio?

In about a year and a half from now, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

This past summer, Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup. Leading up to the event there was no small degree of controversy, fueled in large part by popular protests against the status quo‘s apparent focus on its international image rather than on the Brazilian people’s more urgent needs (Moh 2014). The outcry particularly focused on the lack of development/infrastructure in such sectors as education, public transportation, and medical care.

In a May 2013 interview with the Bloomberg News Service, JPMorgan’s Latin American Chief Investment Analyst Philip Guarco spoke with journalist Trish Regan about Brazil’s capabilities and preparations for both events in question, as neither had yet occurred (nor had the popular protests yet begun). He noted,

“[Brazil has] actually doubled the amount on infrastructure that they’ve made over the last 10 years, from about two percent of GDP to four percent. But I think there has to be more partnership with the private sector. And unfortunately there’s been a number of moves recently by the government which I think discouraged the private sector from investing more in infrastructure.”

These doubts were widely echoed throughout international media in the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup. Although the Brazilian national team suffered a humiliating 7-1 defeat by Germany in the semi-finals and then a 0-3 loss to the Netherlands in the run-off for third place (Pearson/FIFA 2014), the logistical/infrastructural issues predicted by many critics seemed to have been not only averted, but quite smoothly maneuvered. Score one for the Brazilians there.

However, as life gradually returned to normal after the event, the Brazilian economy began to register the reverberations from the weeks of lost productivity in any sector unrelated to the Cup itself, as essentially the whole nation was either directly or indirectly engaged in the mega event:

“While the month-long tournament drew a million foreign tourists to Brazil–far exceeding official expectations–economists say its impact on other sectors of the economy was decidedly negative. Some World Cup host cities declared municipal holidays on days when matches were played in local stadiums, while untold legions of workers played hooky to watch the Brazilian national team’s seven games.” (The Wall Street Journal, 18 July 2014)

Many speculators (Guarco 2013) currently agree that the high hopes that were held for Brazil as a world-class economy are now tempered with a strong dose of scepticism based on internal limitations and the often fraught relationship between the public and private sectors in large-scale projects. The recent scandal involving the widespread corruption of state-run oil giant Petrobras is one glaring example (Horch 2015).

Will the months leading up to the 2016 Olympics (August 5-21, 2016) unfold as another politically turbulent – followed by another economically stagnant – period? Or will the Games only help to solidify Brazil’s still – ostensibly – burgeoning status as the darling of the BRICS nations (“Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa”), despite the risks and challenges? Whatever the result, Brazil’s current position on the world stage is as prominent as it has ever been.

For more information about what’s in store for the fascinating nation and culture of Brazil, scroll down after the references for some recommended reading, all available at the UIUC Library.

Fore more information on Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies, please contact our Subject Specialist, Dr. Antonio Sotomayor:


FIFA. (2014). “2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil: Matches.” Online: Accessed 18 February 2015.

Guarco, Philip and Regan, Trish (Eds.). (2013). “Will We See a Whole New Brazil in 2016?” New York: Bloomberg. Video: Accessed 17 February 2015.

Horch, Dan. (2015). “Corruption Scandal at Petrobras Threatens Brazil’s Economy.” The New York Times. 11 February 2015. Online: Accessed 19 February 2015.

Moh, Catharina (Ed.). (2014). “Clashes Mar Brazil World Cup Protest.” BBC News. 26 January 2014. Video: Accessed 18 February 2015.

Pearson, Samantha (Ed.). (2014). “Brazil’s World Cup Hangover.” The Financial Times. 14 July 2014. Video: Accessed 17 February 2015.

Fore more information, check out these books at the UIUC Library

Jennings, Andrew (Ed.). (2014). Brasil em jogo: o que fica da Copa e das Olimpíadas? São Paulo, SP: Carta Maior: Boitempo Editorial.

Wood, Naomi Pueo (Ed.). (2014). Brazil in Twenty-first Century Popular Media: Culture, Politics, and Nationalism on the World StageLanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Zibechi, Raúl and Ryan, Ramon. (2014). The New Brazil: Regional Imperialism and the New DemocracyOakland, CA: AK Press. – Watch Georgian Films Online!

Have you ever seen a Georgian film? In a 1998 New York Times profile of filmmaker Nana Jorjadze (also transliterated as Djordjadze), critic Stephen Kinzer describes the long tradition of Georgian cinema as founded on “surrealism and poetic intensity.” Its history dates back to 1908, with the release of the several short films, and the first feature-length film, a documentary, was released in 1912. Over the years, many Georgian films, including several by Ms. Jorjadze, have received international accolades and this tradition carries on into the present day.

If you’re learning Georgian or just interested in learning more about the country’s rich cinema tradition, is an indispensable resource. The project, maintained by the Georgian National Filmography, makes the rich history of Georgian cinema available online. Through the online portal, you can find information about the 100+ years of Georgian film history, and find information of films released between 1912 and today. The database can be browsed by year, film title, or artists (including directors, actors, and producers). The amount of detail provided about each film varies. While some records contain detailed plot synopses, other entries are more sparse and provide only the basic bibliographical information about a film: title, director, year of release, and film studio. is available through both a Georgian- and an English-language interface. It is clear from the homepage that the English version of the site is still a work-in-progress and some information, including a short essay on the history of Georgian cinema, is only available in through the Georgian interface. Unfortunately, the search functionality in the English-language interface is limited and browsing the site can be unintuitive. For example, to browse the list of films, you must navigate to the Films tab, select the attribute of your choice (title, director, etc.), and then click on a letter of the alphabet in order to generate a results list.

Screen capture of the film browsing interface for

Browse the history of Georgian cinema at

Despite some of its design flaws, is fantastic resource for anyone interested in learning more about the rich tradition of Georgian film. The best feature of the site is that many of the films are available for streaming online – just keep an eye out for the camera icon! Many, but not all, of the films have English subtitles. Unsure of where to start? The default setting when browsing displays the Top 90 Films.

If you want to learn more about Georgia, see our Guide to Georgian Bibliography for information about some helpful resources. On the other hand, if you are curious about finding other foreign films at the University of Illinois Library, see our Glocal Notes post from September 2012 about How to Browse Non-English Language Movies in the Online Catalog. If you’re looking for something specific, get in touch with subject specialist for your region and we’ll help you track it down.

Do you have a new favorite Georgian film? What resources do you turn to when looking for foreign-language movies? Let us know in the comments!

Kinzer, S. (1998, September 20). Poetic and Surreal, Georgian Cinema is True to Life. New York Times. p. 30.

Reader’s Advisory: Mexico: The Land and its Conflicts

In the past couple of years, the violence in Mexico and around the U.S. border has increased. Since then, many books and articles have come out about the drug cartels, government corruption, and other issues. We all have work and other hobbies we like to do, and so sometimes we’re not up-to-date on the issues surrounding our neighboring country. The following is a reader’s advisory for books about the topic.

Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers by Anabel Hernandez

This book was originally published in Spanish under the title Los Señores Del Narco. The history of the drug cartels goes back many years and Hernandez details how Mexico became the hub for the major cartels in Latin America. Then, Hernandez does something dangerous: she writes about the connection between the cartels and the politicians, judges, and police who collaborated with them.

Hernandez had to have body guards assigned to her for a time, but the Mexican government removed them as recently as last year. However, other governments, such as France’s, intervened, and Hernandez was able to keep her bodyguards.


When I Wear My Alligator Boots: Narco-Culture in the U.S-Mexico Borderlands by Shaylih Muehlmann

The author, Shaylih Muehlmann, focuses on the indigenous people and workers living on the border of Mexico and the U.S. Due to poverty and other circumstances, these workers obtain jobs as drug “mules” and traffickers. Muehlmann spent a year researching a community near the border. It’s a sad reality that the people in the community are forced to choose between working with the drug cartels or a corrupted government.

The Fire Next Door: Mexico’s Drug Violence and the Danger to America by Ted Carpenter

In 2006, the Mexican government initiated their military campaign against the cartels. Since 2006, about 50,000 people have died due to this conflict. While this has affected Mexico in profound ways, it has also spilled over to the United States. The United States has their own strategy for dealing with these issues, but is it working?


Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey through a Country’s Descent into Darkness by Alfredo Corchado

In 2007, the author, Alfredo Corchado, received a tip that he might be the next victim of the cartels. Any normal person would have probably left the country or gone into hiding, but Cochado decided to go to the countryside to investigate. Why was he being targeted? His parents had left Mexico and went to California to raise their family. Corchado returned to his native country in 1994, hoping that one day Mexico would overcome its corruption, its injustice towards its own indigenous people, and many other hopes. Being a journalist, Corchado was always aware that someone could hurt him. Join him on his journey.


In the Shadow of Saint Death: The Gulf Cartel and the Price of America’s Drug War in Mexico by Michael Deibert

Over the past 6 years, Michael Deibert has been conducting research and interviews in Mexico and its regions. There is a war that has been waged in Mexico, a war between two cartels that were once allies. This drama not only includes the cartel members, but also law enforcement, children, politicians, and migrants. The disappearance of people, mass graves, and violence brings up the question of the future of not only Mexico, but also the United States.