Shots from the Trip
About the Community
We noticed that we entered the jungly Yucatán peninsula, the safest region in México, a tourist destination on the eastern end (we went west), the collision site of the dinosaur-extinguishing meteor, and the seat of the ancient Maya, at a peculiar moment. A fragile one. The Maya culture is on the brink. For instance, it’s a mixed bag: some of the younger generation can converse with their grandparents entirely in Maya (not “Mayan,” we learned!), others can respond in Spanish but comprehend the Maya, and some cannot even communicate in Maya at all.
We were invited by Proyecto Itzaes, an after-school but always-present network of community centers committed to preserving this culture in the face of changing economic and cultural currents by empowering the local population through education and community.
Prof. Cynthia Wilber, expat and founder of the organization, invited us to hop around these village centers and collect the stories of the wonderfully vibrant children of all ages and young adults (who feel passionate about the program and stick around to help manage the centers and plan events for the kids). We went from Ixil, to Too, to Dzemul, each carrying the name of their heritage, and witnessed for ourselves the power of the Maya.
We printed this child-authored storybook from the workshop:
Keep Moving Forward
Yucatán is a stronghold for Maya life today, but an understanding of that heritage, like many other indigenous cultures, is slipping among the younger generations there, who seldom understand the language. In no small part, this is because all things indigenous have long been treated as lesser in Mexico. Especially concerning to us, this means that literature in the Maya language has long been relegated to the archaeological. As a result, many Maya descendants today feel out of touch with an important part of their identities. For the young to truly connect with this world so that they can steward and preserve it, it has to be rendered first available and understandable to them. So we are proud to produce this contemporary literature, written about everyday subjects that would seriously concern fellow students in their own lives. We have sent these books back to our workshop partner, Proyecto Itzaes’ centers, in order to inspire in its visitors a vision of a modern Maya life. And we thank Octavio Cordoba for his lively illustrations accompanying Emannuel’s text!