10 Ajaw 18 Sotz’ (June 17, 2021) A Summer of Reawakening: Responses to the Maya Facilitators Survey


Haz clic aquí para leer la versión español

10 Ajaw 18 Sotz’: Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

Thank you to all of our supporters who replied to our survey! In the past month, MAM has also received responses to the survey we sent out to our Maya colleagues regarding online education. There were fewer responses than we had anticipated, and this tells us that other priorities are still likely pressing as the pandemic continues throughout much of the world, and in all of the nations where our Maya colleagues reside. However, I would like to share some of the responses we received, and to summarize what we are learning thus far that has helped to shape our plans to inaugurate a long-awaited, online mini-grant program beginning this summer.

For those Maya colleagues who would still like to respond to our survey, we would love to hear from you! You may do so at the following link, as it helps us to assess the various needs and possibilities for online learning. Please note that this survey is intended for our Maya friends who have either facilitated workshops in the past, or those who would be interested in teaching online or producing online educational videos about the Maya script that we could post on our website:


From the responses we gathered, nearly all Maya facilitators reported that they have regular online access, but 50% replied that their students and community members do not have regular internet access. 70% have had experience teaching online through either Zoom or Google Meet. 90% of our respondents replied that they would be willing to teach MAM-sponsored workshops online, while 80% are interested in recording educational videos to post on our website.

While there is a great interest in teaching online or recording educational videos, 70% of those who replied stated that they would require training, which tells us that we need to focus some of our efforts in this regard. While there are various needs in each community, many have asked for unlimited time on Zoom, which would enable them to more easily facilitate both synchronous classes or to record asynchronous educational videos. In some cases, there are needs for computer equipment, programs, and published resources. Given the lack of reliable internet in many Maya communities, it may make more sense to begin by funding projects to record and posting online educational videos where synchronous classes may not be possible.

60% of those who responded were from various states in Mexico, 30% were from Guatemala, and 10% were from Belize. Here are some of the responses regarding the various challenges different Maya communities have been facing during the pandemic in several different countries:

My community, like other Mayan communities, has been suffering from the total abandonment of the central government concerning the health of the communities. It is a bit difficult to focus only my community, as the problem is throughout the country of Guatemala, all of which is suffering. The problem where the pandemic has us is now complicated above all in the communities where there are still not vaccines for everyone.”

“In advance we appreciate your concern and interest, we find ourselves very well, just as our community has been isolated from the city to avoid contagions, our children receive every month of the visit of their teachers to exchange tasks.”

“Yaxunah is a community where all people are supported. It is a strong community that knows how to get ahead little by little. There were suspected cases of the Covid-19, but they ended up being a common cold. We are well in Yaxunah—nothing more than a natural disaster has hit us, but we knew we had to get ahead of it.”

“In the Mayan communities of Quintana Roo, many cultural and educational activities have been paused in person, and many of the courses, workshops or reports have been presented through different digital platforms and with the help of social networks. Thanks to platforms such as Zoom and Meet, we have been able to establish bond links with our students, where the Ts’iib’ system has also been present as a reference of the artistic and cultural legacy of our community, as well as the use of the Cholqij, calendar, It has been presented as a guide for the understanding of the cycle of the days and have been shared on timely occasions to understand the rains and the lunar phases.”

“Thank you very much for giving the survey, but I consider that there are many things to clarify that MAM should know or understand, and it is only to remind you here that many Maya communities or indigenous peoples do not even have a school. Maya children and youth have to walk many hours to get to their school, and our goal is to bring the workshops to them and to those forgotten communities.”

“In my community we have had several cases of COVID19 and a few deaths. I had my students learning prehispanic music, which had to be halted because we could not get together to practice. Therefore, I involved them in backyard gardening. With the help of the ministry of agriculture, each child had a piece of land tilled and receives seedlings of cucumber, radish, habanero peppers, sweet peppers, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, pumpkin and cilantro. A few weeks ago we had a thanksgiving Mayan ceremony where the children participated. They said their prayers in Maya T’aan. Now, I am thinking of involving them in arts such as embroidery and weaving.”

We send our heartfelt wishes for healing and resilience to our Maya friends, and we encourage all Maya facilitators who wish to engage in online teaching to complete our survey. We hope to be able to help in whatever way possible to keep hope alive, and to continue our work of bringing literacy in the Maya Tz’iib’ to continuing generations of Maya people as we launch our online mini-grant program in the coming month. We are strategizing about the best ways to roll out our new mini-grant program to suit the needs of each applicant.

Here is wishing all of us a summer of hope, healing, learning, and love!

Maltyox, Yum Bo’otik.


Michael Grofe, President

versión español

10 Ajaw 18 Sotz’ (17 de junio, 2021)
Un Verano de Despertar:
Respuestas a la Encuesta de Facilitadores Mayas

10 Ajaw 18 Sotz’ (17 de junio, 2021)

¡Gracias a todos nuestros patrocinadores que respondieron a nuestra encuesta! El mes pasado, MAM también recibió respuestas a la encuesta que enviamos a nuestros colegas mayas sobre la educación en línea. Hubo menos respuestas de las que habíamos esperado, y esto nos dice que es probable que otras prioridades sigan siendo más urgentes en la medida en que la pandemia continúa en gran parte del mundo, incluyendo las naciones donde residen nuestros colegas mayas. Sin embargo, me gustaría compartir algunas de las respuestas que recibimos, con el fin de resumir lo que sabemos hasta ahora y que ha ayudado a dar forma a nuestros planes para lanzar un muy esperado programa de minibecas en línea este verano.

A aquellos colegas mayas que aún deseen responder a nuestra encuesta, ¡nos encantaría saber de ustedes! Pueden hacerlo en el siguiente enlace, ya que nos ayuda a evaluar las diversas necesidades y posibilidades de aprendizaje en línea. Favor de tener en cuenta que esta encuesta está dirigida a aquellos de nuestros amigos mayas que han facilitado talleres en el pasado, o aquellos que pudieran estar interesados en enseñar en línea o producir videos educativos en línea sobre la escritura maya que pudiéramos publicar en nuestro sitio web:


De las respuestas que recopilamos, casi todos los facilitadores mayas informaron que tienen acceso regular a Internet, si bien el 50% respondió que sus estudiantes y los miembros de la comunidad carecen del mismo. El 70% ha tenido experiencia en la enseñanza en línea a través de Zoom o Google Meet. El 90% de nuestros encuestados respondió que estaría dispuesto a impartir talleres patrocinados por MAM en línea, mientras que el 80% está interesado en grabar videos educativos para publicar en nuestro sitio web.

Si bien existe un gran interés en la enseñanza en línea o en la grabación de videos educativos, el 70% de los que respondieron manifestaron que requerirían capacitación, lo que nos dice que debemos enfocar algunos de nuestros esfuerzos en este sentido. Si bien las necesidades son distintas en cada comunidad, muchos han pedido tiempo ilimitado en Zoom, lo que les permitiría facilitaría tanto dar clases sincrónicas como grabar videos educativos asincrónicos. En algunos casos, se necesitan equipos, programas y recursos publicados de cómputo. Dada la falta de un servicio confiable de Internet en muchas comunidades mayas, puede tener más sentido comenzar financiando proyectos para grabar y publicar videos educativos en línea en aquellos lugares en los que las clases sincrónicas no sean viables.

El 60% de quienes respondieron a la encuesta provienen de diversos estados de México, el 30% de Guatemala y el 10% de Belice. Estas son algunas de las respuestas con respecto a los diversos desafíos que las diferentes comunidades mayas han enfrentado durante la pandemia en diferentes países:

“Mi comunidad, como otras comunidades mayas, han venido sufriendo el abandono total del gobierno central en relación con la salud de las comunidades. Es un poco difícil enfocarse sólo en mi comunidad: el problema es en todo el país de Guatemala. La pandemia presenta un panorama complicado en las comunidades ya que, sobre todo, no hay aún vacunas para todos.”

“De antemano agradecemos su preocupación e interés. Nos encontramos muy bien. Nuestra comunidad ha estado aislada de la ciudad para evitar los contagios; nuestros niños reciben cada fin de mes la visita de sus maestros para intercambiar tareas.”

“Yaxunah es una comunidad donde toda la gente se apoya mutuamente, es una comunidad fuerte, que sabe salir adelante poco a poco. Se sospechaba de algunos casos de Covid-19, pero terminaron siendo casos de resfriado común. Estamos bien en Yaxunah; sufrimos el impacto de un desastre natural, pero supimos salir adelante.”

“En las comunidades mayas de Quintana Roo, se han ido pausando muchas actividades culturales y educativas de manera presencial; muchos de los cursos, talleres o infomerciales se han ido presentando a través de distintas plataformas digitales y con ayuda de las redes sociales. Gracias a plataformas como Zoom y Meet, hemos podido establecer vínculos para estar en contacto con nuestros alumnos, donde el sistema Ts’íib tambien se ha hecho presente como referente del legado artístico y cultural de nuestra comunidad; de igual manera, el uso del calendario Cholq’ij se ha hecho presente como guía para el entendimiento del ciclo de los días y se han compartido en ocasiones oportunas para comprender las lluvias y las fases lunares.”

“En mi comunidad hemos tenido varios casos de COVID 19 y algunas muertes. Hice que mis alumnos aprendieran música prehispánica, algo que tuvo que detenerse porque no podíamos juntarnos para practicar. Por lo tanto, los involucré en la agricultura doméstica. Con ayuda del Ministerio de Agricultura, a cada niño se le asignó un terreno de cultivo y recibió plántulas de pepino, rábano, chiles habaneros, pimientos dulces, chiles jalapeños, tomates, repollo, zapallo y cilantro. Hace unas semanas tuvimos una ceremonia maya de acción de gracias donde participaron los niños. Dijeron sus oraciones en Maya T’aan. Ahora, estoy pensando en involucrarlos en artes como el bordado y el tejido.”

“Muchas gracias por realizar la encuesta. Pero, considero que hay muchas cosas que aclarar y que el MAM debe de saber o conocer. Solamente hemos de recordar aquí que muchas comunidades mayas o pueblos indígenas no tienen ni escuela. Los niños y jóvenes mayas, tienen que caminar muchas horas para llegar a su escuela. Y nuestro objetivo es llevar los talleres a ellos y hacia esas comunidades olvidadas.”

Enviamos nuestros más sinceros deseos de sanación y resistencia a nuestros amigos mayas, y alentamos a todos los facilitadores mayas que deseen participar en la enseñanza en línea a completar nuestra encuesta. Esperamos poder ayudar de cualquier manera posible a mantener viva la esperanza y continuar nuestro trabajo de llevar la alfabetización en maya tz’iib’ a las consecutivas generaciones de personas mayas, en tanto lanzamos nuestro programa de mini-subvenciones en línea el próximo mes. Estamos trabajando en las estrategias sobre las mejores formas de implementar nuestro nuevo programa de mini-subvenciones para satisfacer las necesidades de cada solicitante.

¡Les deseamos a todos un verano de esperanza, sanación, aprendizaje y amor!

Maltyox, Yum Bo’otik.


Michael Grofe, Presidente

9 Ajaw 18 Wo (May 8, 2021): Looking to the Future of Online Education: MAM Supporters Survey

Haz clic aquí para leer la versión español

9 Ajaw 18 Woj. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

Create your own user feedback survey

Dear Friends of MAM,
This past year has forced educators all over the world to transition to online platforms, and one of the silver linings of this pandemic has been the blossoming of various technologies that have allowed us to remain connected.

Because the ongoing pandemic continues to prevent our Maya colleagues to gather safely in classrooms and workshops, we are inaugurating new ways for Maya teachers to reach out to their students, both through online classes, as well as through uploading recorded lecture videos online.

MAM is currently surveying our Maya colleagues to see what their needs may be regarding online access, teaching experience, and training, and we are proposing to make our MAM website at discovermam.org a repository for both public and private online educational videos made by Maya teachers for their students.

There is a great need for educational videos about Maya writing and the calendar in Spanish, as well as in different Mayan languages, and we would like to support the creation of more content like this.

This month, we also have a short survey that we are asking you, our supporters and friends, to take, either above or at this link on SurveyMonkey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5XLGNQS

This survey is to see what kind of content you would like to see on our MAM website. Traditionally, we post reports from on the ground, face-to-face workshops in the field every 40 days, but this has not been possible for many months. We would like to hear from you about what kind of content you would like to see in the future.

We wish you all a safe and healthy return to life beyond the pandemic, hoping that the wide distribution of vaccinations reaches far and wide to finally bring us out of this crisis.

Thanks very much for participating in our survey!

We look forward to hearing from you, and we hope we can find ways to keep us connected, while also keeping us all safe.

Michael Grofe, President

versión español

9 Ajaw 18 Wo (8 de mayo, 2021): Mirando hacia el futuro de la educación en línea: Encuesta a los Patrocinadores de MAM

9 Ajaw 18 Woj. Dibujo de Jorge Pérez de Lara

Queridos amigos de MAM,
El año pasado ha obligado a los educadores de todo el mundo a realizar la transición a las plataformas en línea, y uno de los aspectos positivos de esta pandemia ha sido el florecimiento de varias tecnologías que nos han permitido permanecer conectados.

Debido a que la pandemia en curso continúa impidiendo que nuestros colegas mayas se reúnan de manera segura en aulas y talleres, estamos innovando con nuevas formas para que los maestros mayas puedan acercarse a sus estudiantes, tanto a través de clases en línea, como a través de subir a la red videos grabados de conferencias en línea.

MAM está realizando una encuesta entre nuestros colegas mayas para ver cuáles pueden ser sus necesidades con respecto al acceso en línea, su experiencia docente y su capacitación, y proponemos hacer de nuestro sitio web de MAM en discovermam.org un repositorio de videos educativos en línea públicos y privados, hechos por profesores mayas para sus alumnos.

Existe una gran necesidad de videos educativos sobre la escritura y el calendario mayas en español, así como en diferentes idiomas mayas, y nos gustaría apoyar la creación de más contenido como este.

Este mes, también tenemos una breve encuesta para nuestros patrocinadores, nuestros seguidores y amigos, que podrán llenar, ya sea en el enlace de arriba o en este enlace en SurveyMonkey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5FX8RPC

Esta encuesta también es para ver qué tipo de contenido les gustaría ver en nuestro sitio web de MAM. Tradicionalmente, publicamos informes de talleres presenciales aproximadamente cada 40 días, aunque esto no ha sido posible durante muchos meses. Nos gustaría que compartieran con nosotros qué tipo de contenido les gustaría ver en el futuro.

Les deseamos a todos un regreso seguro y saludable a la vida más allá de la pandemia, con la esperanza de que la amplia distribución de vacunas llegue a todas partes, para finalmente sacarnos de esta crisis.

¡Muchas gracias por participar en nuestra encuesta!

Esperamos tener noticias suyas y poder encontrar formas de mantenernos conectados y, al mismo tiempo, mantenernos a todos a salvo.


Michael Grofe, Presidente

11 Ak’bal 1 Pop (April 1, 2021): The Visible Word: Presenting Maya Writing Online

Haz clic aquí para leer la versión español

11 Ak’bal 1 Pop. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara
Click the image to view the presentation given by Memo Kantún in the La Palabra Visible conference on Facebook

Happy New Year! Today is 11 Ak’bal 1 Pop and we decided to wait until today to post this month’s blog. Spring has arrived, and a new day is dawning, with hope on the horizon that we will finally end this pandemic. I was fortunate to be able to receive my second dose of the vaccine, which became available to educators last month, and it is seeing vastly increasing distribution in the United States, where 148 million people so far have at least received one dose, which is 45% of the population. By comparison, in Mexico, 6 million people have received at least one dose, which is only about 5% of their population. In Belize, about 20,000 people have received one dose, which is also 5% of their population. In Guatemala, some 98,000 people have received one dose, which is only 0.59% or their population. We hope that equitable vaccine distribution will greatly expand in the near future for our friends and family around the world. It cannot come soon enough.

Given the unknown time frame for vaccine distribution, and the current restrictions on public gathering, we do not yet know when it will be safe to continue with face-to-face classes and conferences. Even with increased vaccine distribution, in my own school district, we have already decided to keep our campus closed this fall, due to the inability to know whether our students will be fully vaccinated by that time.

We are adapting to these ongoing circumstances, and there has been a great increase in the availability of online learning using platforms like Zoom. MAM would like to support and encourage the creation and distribution of online learning, which we hope to implement soon. As an example, this month, I would like to call attention to the wonderful presentation given by Archaeologist Memo Kantún for the Museo Palacio Canton in Mérida, Yucatan earlier in March. This was the first online conference of its kind for the Museo Palacio Canton, and it serves as an inspiration for other educators who would like to reach a wide audience by recording presentations like this in Spanish, English, or in various Mayan languages. This was not a conference supported by MAM, but we are very interested in housing presentations like this on our website in the future. Stay tuned for more coming soon!

I hope you all are staying safe, and that we will all be able to finally see one another in the near future. In the meantime, we hope to take advantage of the current technology to continue our important work.

Yum Bo’otik,

Michael Grofe, President

versión español

11 Ak’bal 1 Pop (1 de abril, 2021): La Palabra Visible: Presentando la escritura maya en línea

11 Ak’bal 1 Pop. Dibujo de Jorge Pérez de Lara
Haz clic el imagen para ver la presentación de Memo Kantún en la conferencia La Palabra Visible en Facebook

¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Hoy es 11 Ak’bal 1 Pop y decidimos esperar hasta hoy para publicar el blog de este mes. Ha llegado la primavera y amanece un nuevo día, con la esperanza en el horizonte de que finalmente acabemos con esta pandemia. Tuve la suerte de poder recibir mi segunda dosis de la vacuna, que estuvo disponible para los educadores el mes pasado, y su distribución está aumentando enormemente en los Estados Unidos, donde 148 millones de personas hasta ahora han recibido al menos una dosis, que es 45% de la población. En comparación, en México, 6 millones de personas han recibido al menos una dosis, que es solo alrededor del 5% de su población. En Belice, unas 20.000 personas han recibido una dosis, lo que también representa el 5% de su población. En Guatemala, unas 98.000 personas han recibido una dosis, que es solo el 0,59% de su población. Esperamos que la distribución equitativa de vacunas se amplíe enormemente en un futuro próximo para nuestros amigos y familiares en todo el mundo. No puede llegar lo suficientemente pronto.

Dado el marco de tiempo desconocido para la distribución de la vacuna y las restricciones actuales sobre las reuniones públicas, aún no sabemos cuándo será seguro continuar con las clases y conferencias cara a cara. Incluso con una mayor distribución de vacunas, en mi propio distrito escolar, ya hemos decidido mantener nuestro campus cerrado este otoño, debido a la incapacidad de saber si nuestros estudiantes estarán completamente vacunados para ese momento.

Nos estamos adaptando a estas circunstancias actuales y ha habido un gran aumento en la disponibilidad de aprendizaje en línea utilizando plataformas como Zoom. MAM desea apoyar y fomentar la creación y distribución de aprendizaje en línea, que esperamos implementar pronto. Como ejemplo, este mes me gustaría llamar la atención sobre la maravillosa presentación que dio el arqueólogo Memo Kantún para el Museo Palacio Cantón en Mérida, Yucatán, a principios de marzo. Esta fue la primera conferencia en línea de este tipo para el Museo Palacio Cantón, y sirve de inspiración para otros educadores que deseen llegar a una amplia audiencia grabando presentaciones como esta en español, inglés, o en varios idiomas mayas. Esta no fue una conferencia apoyada por MAM, pero estamos muy interesados en presentaciones de vivienda como esta en nuestro sitio web en el futuro. Mantente sintonizado para más, próximamente.

Espero que todos estén a salvo y que todos podamos finalmente vernos en un futuro próximo. Mientras tanto, esperamos aprovechar la tecnología actual para continuar con nuestro importante trabajo.

Yum Bo’otik,

Michael Grofe, Presidente

7 Ajaw 3 K’ayab (February 17, 2021): NativeLang: Exploring the Revitalization of Mesoamerican Writing

Haz clic aquí para leer la versión español.

7 Ajaw 3 K’ayab: Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara
NativeLang: “But are Mesoamerican glyphs still used today?”

It is hard to believe that it has almost been a year since the pandemic lockdown began for many of us. Since the college where I teach has shifted into an entirely online format, I’ve had the opportunity to explore and share many innovative web-based resources in my classes. In my linguistics class, I have been using several excellent animated videos from NativeLang, a YouTube channel created by linguist and animator Joshua Rudder. I highly recommend the many videos on his channel, and I greatly admire the thought and work he has put into these videos, and how effectively they communicate complex histories and ideas. This month, I would like to highlight one of his videos from last August, in which he explores the revitalization of Mesoamerican scripts, with a particular focus on Maya writing.

Featured in the video is a Tzeltal poem written and published in Maya script by our friend Martín Gómez Ramírez, the famous Stela of Iximché, written in Kaqchikel using an adapted Maya script. Also mentioned is the hieroglyphic version of the K’iche’ Popol Vuh, transcribed by Yan García and designed by Mario Hernández, as well as a discussion of the challenges of converting Maya glyphs into a Unicode text that is readable by computers.

This and other educational online resources have given me the idea that we might explore the commissioning and creation of similar online resources by Maya educators for Maya students. The pandemic continues to force us to consider new ways to continue our work, and given that we may be dealing with the challenges of restrictions on face-to-face classes for the foreseeable future this year, online learning promises to provide new opportunities for educational outreach for those who have the ability to connect to the internet.

Meanwhile, many of us still await our vaccinations, which are still not widely available in the United States, let alone in Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize. May we all stay safe and healthy and get vaccinated soon so that we can once again gather together and see our friends and family to celebrate life and a better future.

Kolaval Tajmek, Matyox,  

Michael Grofe, President

Versión Español

7 Ajaw 3 K’ayab (17 de febrero, 2021): NativeLang: Explorando la Revitalización de la Escritura Mesoamericana

Es difícil creer que para muchos de nosotros ha pasado casi un año desde que comenzó el cierre de emergencia de la pandemia. Desde que el colegio en el que doy clases cambió a un formato completamente en línea, he tenido la oportunidad de explorar y compartir muchos recursos innovadores, basados en la web, en mis clases. En mi clase de lingüística, he estado usando varios excelentes videos animados de NativeLang, un canal de YouTube creado por el lingüista y animador Joshua Rudder. Recomiendo mucho los muchos videos de este canal, y admiro mucho el pensamiento y el trabajo que él ha puesto en estos videos y la eficacia con la que comunican historias e ideas complejas. Este mes, me gustaría destacar uno de sus videos del pasado mes de agosto, en el que explora la revitalización de las escrituras mesoamericanas, con un énfasis particular en la escritura maya. Siéntanse en libertad de cambiar los subtítulos a español usando los controles de configuración.

En el video aparece un poema tseltal escrito y publicado en la escritura maya por nuestro amigo Martín Gómez Ramírez, así como también la famosa Estela de Iximché, escrita en Kaqchikel. También se menciona la versión jeroglífica del Popol Vuh, transcrito por Yan García y diseñado por Mario Hernández, así como una discusión sobre los desafíos que presenta la conversión de los glifos mayas a un texto Unicode que las computadoras sean capaces de leer.

Este y otros recursos educativos en línea me han dado la idea de que podríamos explorar el encargo y la creación de recursos en línea similares por parte de educadores mayas para estudiantes mayas. La pandemia continúa obligándonos a considerar nuevas formas de continuar nuestro trabajo, y dado que es posible que sigamos enfrentando los desafíos de las restricciones en las clases presenciales en el futuro previsible este año, el aprendizaje en línea promete brindar nuevas oportunidades para la educación al alcance de aquellos que tienen la posibilidad de conectarse a Internet.

Mientras tanto, muchos de nosotros seguimos esperando nuestras vacunas, que todavía no están ampliamente disponibles en los Estados Unidos, y mucho menos en Guatemala, México y Belice. ¡Ojalá todos podamos mantenernos seguros y saludables y podamos vacunarnos pronto para que podamos reunirnos una vez más y ver a nuestros amigos y familiares para celebrar la vida y un futuro mejor!

Kolaval Tajmek, Matyox, 

Michael Grofe, Presidente

6 Ajaw 3 Muwan (January 8, 2021): Of Cabbages and Kings: “Banana Republics” and the Past and Present Fragility of Democracy

Haz clic aquí para leer la versión español.

6 Ajaw 3 Muwan: Dibujo de Jorge Pérez de Lara

Of Cabbages and Kings: “Banana Republics” and the Past and Present Fragility of Democracy

La Gloriosa Victoria, Diego Rivera (1954) Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

Gobierno de Álvaro Colom, Guatemala 2008-2012 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

With a heavy heart, I write this to you in a time of grave national crisis in the United States, as yet unresolved, amidst the prolonged catastrophe of a global pandemic through which we all continue to suffer. A New Year is upon us in the Gregorian Calendar, with the promise of a vaccine, which some of my friends have already received but which is not yet widely available. In what will be a fraught two weeks of uncertainty, a new presidential administration comes to power in the United States. Though we lack any current reports to publish from the field, I had hoped to be able to simply wish all of us a happier and more hopeful year ahead, which I certainly wish for all of us, now more than ever. But I am feeling that now is not the time to remain silent regarding what is happening. Please forgive my departure from our usual topics in my turning to current events, but there is a thread that I feel needs to be explored that connects us to a lesser-known, shared history between the United States and Maya people which is often not discussed or acknowledged.

The attempted coup d’etat and the tragically deadly forced invasion of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6th has been a shocking new experience for citizens of the United States, which prides itself as being the global beacon of democracy. This insurrection continues to be a painful, yet important reminder of the fragility of democracy itself, and it is important for us to recognize that this kind of event and its tragic aftermath is not unfamiliar to much of the rest of the world, particularly for our many Maya friends in Central America who are watching this from the outside and no doubt comparing it with their own painful histories of coups d’etats that have been much more deadly and organized than this one.

With great concern and without hesitation, world leaders and former U.S. Presidents alike have justifiably condemned the senseless violence on Wednesday, but I was particularly struck by one comment by former President George W. Bush, who wrote, “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic” (Wamsley 2021).

The common moniker of a “banana republic” is often used to derogatorily characterize politically destabilized, so-called “third world” nations with rampant, anti-democratic corruption and class inequality, imagining that such things are only present outside the United States. As a linguist, I am interested in the usage and circulation of terms, and in the importance of understanding the origins of these terms. I think such a comment requires context and understanding of how the term “banana republic” itself originated, particularly because the intended usage can be unintentionally insulting to our friends in other nations, as it often overlooks the direct connections to the intentional destabilization of Central American governments ironically caused by powerful political and corporate interests in the United States. Likewise, it perpetuates the dangerous Eurocentric fiction of white supremacy, and it assumes an inferiority of these nations as being beneath the “first world,” which is both unfair and inaccurate. Such uses of this term overlook the responsibility our government bears in both causing and supporting these very anti-democratic political circumstances in other nations, as well as the parallels with our current tragic circumstances.

The term “banana republic” originated from the writing of O. Henry, the pen name of William Sydney Porter, who coined the term in his 1904 novel Cabbages and Kings (taken from the Lewis Carroll poem The Walrus and the Carpenter), about a fictitious Central American country called the Republic of Anchuria. This was based upon his own experiences in Honduras and his observations of the powerful fruit companies from the United States which had a profound impact on destabilizing Central American nations like Honduras and Guatemala for the purposes of their own profit through exporting the bountiful produce of these nations through exploiting cheap labor (Eschner 2017).

As we know from the well-documented history of Guatemala as detailed in Bitter Fruit: the Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (Schlesinger & Kinser 1982, revised in 2005), the United States government was heavily involved with multiple dictators that favored the United Fruit Company (UFCO), culminating in the 1954 coup d’etat in Guatemala orchestrated and carried out by the CIA, which removed the democratically elected Jacobo Árbenz from power. Árbenz had instituted a popular policy of agrarian reform that sought to return unused land owned by the UFCO to poor farmers, many of which were Maya people who were forced to work as cheap labor in the fincas, the plantations owned by the UFCO.

Both the United States Secretary of State at the time, John Foster Dulles, and his brother, Allan Dulles, the Director of the CIA, had ties to the United Fruit Company, both having worked for the law firm which represented them. Because of these and other close ties, the UFCO successfully lobbied the U.S. Government under President Eisenhower to stage a coup through the CIA by playing into the fears of the Red Scare, inaccurately claiming that Árbenz was a communist. However, it was the United Fruit Company that was primarily concerned with its profits, which were greater than the GDP of Guatemala itself, and unjustly built on the backs of exploited people dispossessed from their traditional lands. The result was that Árbenz was forcibly deposed in 1954, leading to four decades of military dictatorships that were supported and armed by the United States government—ultimately leading to rampant human rights abuses and the genocide of tens of thousands of Maya people during the tragic and painful period that has become known as la Violencia.

In 1999, following the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords that ended the formal conflict in Guatemala, President Clinton finally issued an official apology to the Guatemalan government for the unjust involvement and support of dictatorships in Guatemala by the United States (Broder 1999). Here, in part, is Clinton’s apology:

“For the United States, it is important that I state clearly that support for military forces and intelligence units which engaged in violence and widespread repression was wrong, and the United States must not repeat that mistake…We must and will, instead, continue to support the peace and reconciliation process in Guatemala.”

While the United States prides itself on serving as an unshakeable example of democracy for the rest of the world, this sits uncomfortably for those who have been directly impacted by the decidedly anti-democratic actions our government has taken against other democratically elected governments when it has served corrupt interests of those in power. I do not intend for this to minimize the current crisis by casting aspersions on the problematic history of the United States and its history of anti-democratic practices. Rather, it is in my hope that we can all be better than this and that we can continue to learn from our mistakes.

It serves the greater good for us to understand the truth of our own history and how that history intersects with the history of our neighbors and friends among the Maya people we work with, who continue to bravely rebuild their lives and reconnect to a history that has been forcibly and repeatedly taken from them. I see the work we do as directly connected to taking some responsibility for reparations for what our nation has done, and I do hope we can return to that work as soon as possible this year.

I think it is worth remembering all of this in this current moment of crisis, and reflecting on the fragility of democracy itself, both at home and abroad, as well as reflecting on the devastating and dangerous consequences of attempting to overturn democratically elected governments based on falsehoods, selfishness, and greed. In this moment of national reckoning, I think it is important to acknowledge how easy it can be for selfish actors to abuse their power to manipulate and thwart the goals of democratic societies, particularly through the promotion of nationalist fictions of white supremacy, and it is of paramount importance in these moments to tell the truth about ourselves and about our shared past so that we do not repeat these mistakes. We are learning that we are all equal after all, and that we may yet live up to the promise of equality upon which our imperfect nation was built. We are equally vulnerable to anti-democratic abuses of power, just as we are not immune to a virus that has now taken over 375,000 lives in the United States, and nearly two million lives globally.

In the future, if we choose to use the term “banana republic” to describe another nation, or our own, I would hope that we use it with a more honest understanding where that term comes from, and I hereby invite all of us to learn its true meaning as connected to the history of the United States and its damaging, antidemocratic entanglements in other nations.

May we all have a safe, healthy New Year in pursuit of truth, happiness, and mutual understanding beyond our borders. May there especially be peace and healing in all of our nations in the coming weeks, months, and years to come. The time has come, and we’ve got work to do.

Yum Bo’otik, Sib’alaj Maltyox,

Michael Grofe, President

“La United Fruit Co.”

When the trumpet sounded
everything was prepared on earth,
and Jehovah gave the world
to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations.
The United Fruit Company
reserved for itself the most juicy
piece, the central coast of my world,
the delicate waist of America.

It rebaptized these countries
Banana Republics,
and over the sleeping dead,
over the unquiet heroes
who won greatness,
liberty, and banners,
it established comic opera:
it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns,

encouraged envy, attracted
the dictatorship of flies:
Trujillo flies, Tachos flies
Carias flies, Martinez flies,
Ubico flies, flies sticky with
submissive blood and marmalade,
drunken flies that buzz over
the tombs of the people,
circus flies, wise flies
expert at tyranny.

With the bloodthirsty flies
came the Fruit Company,
amassed coffee and fruit
in ships which put to sea like
overloaded trays with the treasures
from our sunken lands.

Meanwhile the Indians fall
into the sugared depths of the
harbors and are buried in the
morning mists;
a corpse rolls, a thing without
name, a discarded number,
a bunch of rotten fruit
thrown on the garbage heap.

~Pablo Neruda, Canto General (1950)

Versión Español

6 Ajaw 3 Muwan (8 de enero de 2021): De Coles y Reyes: Las “Repúblicas Bananeras” y la fragilidad pasada y presente de la democracia

Con gran pesar, escribo esto en un momento de grave crisis nacional en los Estados Unidos, aún sin resolver, en medio de la prolongada catástrofe de una pandemia mundial que todos seguimos sufriendo. Ha llegado un nuevo año en el calendario gregoriano, con la promesa de una vacuna que algunos de mis amigos ya han recibido, pero que todavía no están disponibles para todos. En lo que serán dos semanas de incertidumbre, una nueva administración presidencial llega al poder en Estados Unidos. Aunque carecemos de informes de campo actuales para publicar, esperaba poder simplemente desearnos a todos un año más feliz y esperanzador, lo que ciertamente deseo para todos, ahora más que nunca. Pero siento que ahora no es el momento de guardar silencio sobre lo que está sucediendo. Por favor, perdonen mi alejamiento de nuestros temas habituales al pasar a los eventos actuales, pero hay un hilo que creo que debe explorarse y que nos conecta con una historia compartida menos conocida entre los Estados Unidos y los mayas que a menudo no se discute o se reconoce.

El intento de golpe de estado y la invasión forzada y trágicamente mortal del edificio del Capitolio de los Estados Unidos el 6 de enero ha sido una experiencia nueva e impactante para los ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos, que se enorgullecen de ser el faro global de la democracia. Esta insurrección sigue siendo un recordatorio doloroso, pero importante, de la fragilidad de la democracia en sí, y es importante que reconozcamos que este tipo de eventos y sus trágicas secuelas no son desconocidos para gran parte del resto del mundo, en particular para nuestros amigos mayas en Centroamérica, quienes están viendo esto desde afuera y sin duda lo comparan con sus propias historias dolorosas de golpes de estado, que han sido mucho más mortíferos y organizados que este.

Con gran preocupación y sin dudarlo, los líderes mundiales y los ex presidentes de Estados Unidos por igual han condenado justificadamente la violencia sin sentido del miércoles, pero me llamó particularmente la atención un comentario del ex presidente George W. Bush, quien escribió: “Así es como se disputan los resultados de las elecciones en una república bananera, no en nuestra república democrática” (Wamsley 2021).

El apodo común de “república bananera” se usa a menudo para caracterizar despectivamente a las naciones políticamente desestabilizadas del llamado “tercer mundo”, con una corrupción desenfrenada y antidemocrática y gran desigualdad de clases, imaginando que tales cosas solo están presentes fuera de Estados Unidos. Como lingüista, me interesa el uso y la circulación de términos y la importancia de comprender el origen de estos términos. Creo que tal comentario requiere contexto y comprensión de cómo se originó el término “república bananera”, en particular porque el uso previsto puede ser un insulto involuntario para nuestros amigos en otras naciones, ya que a menudo pasa por alto las conexiones directas con la desestabilización intencional de los gobiernos centroaméricanos, causados ​​irónicamente por poderosos intereses políticos y corporativos en los Estados Unidos. Asimismo, perpetúa la peligrosa ficción eurocéntrica de la supremacía blanca y presupone una inferioridad de estas naciones como inferiores al “primer mundo”, lo cual es injusto e inexacto. Tales usos de este término pasan por alto la responsabilidad que tiene nuestro gobierno de causar y apoyar estas circunstancias políticas antidemocráticas en otras naciones, así como los paralelismos con nuestras trágicas circunstancias actuales.

El término “república bananera” se originó a partir de la escritura de O. Henry, el seudónimo de William Sydney Porter, quien acuñó el término en su novela de 1904 Cabbages and Kings (“Coles y Reyes”, tomado del poema de Lewis Carroll La Morsa y el Carpintero), sobre un país centroamericano ficticio llamado República de Anchuria. Esto se basó en sus propias experiencias en Honduras y sus observaciones de las poderosas empresas frutícolas de los Estados Unidos, que tuvieron un profundo impacto en la desestabilización de naciones centroamericanas como Honduras y Guatemala, buscando su propio beneficio mediante la exportación de la abundante producción de estas naciones, por medio de la explotación de mano de obra barata (Eschner 2017).

Como sabemos por la bien documentada historia de Guatemala, como se detalla en Bitter Fruit: la historia no contada del golpe estadounidense en Guatemala (Schlesinger & Kinser 1982, revisada en 2005), el gobierno de los Estados Unidos estuvo muy involucrado con múltiples dictadores que favorecían a la United Fruit Company (UFCO) y que culminó con el golpe de estado de 1954 en Guatemala, orquestado y llevado a cabo por la CIA, que sacó del poder al presidente electo democráticamente Jacobo Árbenz. Árbenz había instituido una política popular de reforma agraria que buscaba devolver las tierras en desuso propiedad de la UFCO a los agricultores pobres, muchos de los cuales pertenecían a grupos mayas, obligados a trabajar como mano de obra barata en las fincas y plantaciones propiedad de la UFCO.

Tanto el entonces secretario de Estado de los Estados Unidos, John Foster Dulles, como su hermano, Allan Dulles, director de la CIA, tenían vínculos con la United Fruit Company, y ambos habían trabajado para el bufete de abogados que los representaba. Debido a estos y otros lazos cercanos, la UFCO presionó con éxito al gobierno de los Estados Unidos bajo el presidente Eisenhower para que organizara un golpe de estado a través de la CIA, jugando con los temores de la llamada “Red Scare”, afirmando erróneamente que Árbenz era comunista. Sin embargo, la United Fruit Company se preocupaba principalmente por sus ganancias, que eran mayores que el PIB de la propia Guatemala, mismas que se habían construido injustamente sobre las espaldas de personas explotadas y desposeídas de sus tierras tradicionales. El resultado fue que Árbenz fue depuesto por la fuerza en 1954, lo que llevó a cuatro décadas de dictaduras militares que fueron apoyadas y armadas por el gobierno de los Estados Unidos, y que en última instancia condujo a abusos desenfrenados de los derechos humanos y al genocidio de decenas de miles de mayas durante el trágico y doloroso período que se ha dado a conocer como la Violencia.

En 1999, luego de la firma de los Acuerdos de Paz de 1996 que pusieron fin al conflicto formal en Guatemala, el presidente Clinton finalmente emitió una disculpa oficial al gobierno guatemalteco por la participación injusta y el apoyo a las dictaduras en Guatemala por parte de Estados Unidos (Broder 1999). Aquí, en parte, está la disculpa de Clinton:

“Para Estados Unidos, es importante que yo afirme claramente que el apoyo a las fuerzas militares y las unidades de inteligencia que participaron en la violencia y la represión generalizada fue equivocada y que Estados Unidos no debe repetir ese error… Debemos y seguiremos, en cambio, apoyando el proceso de paz y reconciliación en Guatemala.”

Si bien Estados Unidos se enorgullece de servir como un ejemplo inquebrantable de democracia para el resto del mundo, esto resulta incómodo para aquellos que han sido directamente afectados por las acciones decididamente antidemocráticas que nuestro gobierno ha tomado contra otros gobiernos elegidos democráticamente, cuando esto ha servido a los intereses corruptos de los que están en el poder. No pretendo que esto minimice la crisis actual arrojando calumnias sobre la problemática historia de Estados Unidos y su historia de prácticas antidemocráticas. Más bien, tengo la esperanza de que todos podamos ser mejores que esto y podamos seguir aprendiendo de nuestros errores.

Nos sirve para un bien mayor entender la verdad de nuestra propia historia y cómo esa historia se cruza con la historia de nuestros vecinos y amigos entre los mayas con los que trabajamos, quienes continúan reconstruyendo valientemente sus vidas y reconectándose con una historia que ha les ha sido arrebatada repetidamente por la fuerza. Veo el trabajo que hacemos como algo directamente relacionado con asumir alguna responsabilidad por las reparaciones de lo que ha hecho nuestra nación, esperando que podamos volver a ese trabajo lo antes posible este año.

Creo que vale la pena recordar todo esto en este momento de crisis actual, y reflexionar sobre la fragilidad de la democracia en sí, tanto en el país como en el exterior, así como reflexionar sobre las devastadoras y peligrosas consecuencias de intentar derrocar gobiernos elegidos democráticamente sobre la base de falsedades, egoísmo y codicia. En este momento de ajuste nacional de cuentas, creo que es importante reconocer lo fácil que puede ser para los actores egoístas abusar de su poder para manipular y frustrar los objetivos de las sociedades democráticas, particularmente a través de la promoción de las ficciones nacionalistas de la supremacía blanca. Es de suma importancia en estos momentos decir la verdad sobre nosotros mismos y sobre nuestro pasado compartido para no repetir estos errores. Estamos aprendiendo que todos somos iguales después de todo, y que aún podemos estar a la altura de la promesa de igualdad sobre la cual se construyó nuestra imperfecta nación. Somos igualmente vulnerables a los abusos de poder antidemocráticos, del mismo modo que tampoco somos inmunes a un virus que ahora ha cobrado más de 375.000 vidas en los Estados Unidos y casi dos millones de vidas en todo el mundo.

En el futuro, si elegimos usar el término “república bananera” para describir a otra nación o a la nuestra, espero que lo usemos con una comprensión más honesta sobre el origen de ese término, y por la presente los invito a todos a aprender su verdadero significado en relación con la historia de los Estados Unidos y sus enredos dañinos y antidemocráticos en otras naciones.

Deseo que todos tengamos un Año Nuevo seguro y saludable en la búsqueda de la verdad, la felicidad y el entendimiento mutuo más allá de nuestras fronteras. Que haya especialmente paz y reconciliación en todas nuestras naciones en las semanas, meses y años por venir. Ha llegado el momento y tenemos trabajo por hacer.

Yum Bo’otik, Sib’alaj Maltyox,

Michael Grofe, Presidente

“La United Fruit Co.”

Cuando sonó la trompeta,
estuvo todo preparado en la tierra,
y Jehova repartió el mundo
a Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, y otras entidades:
la Compañía Frutera Inc.
se reservó lo más jugoso,
la costa central de mi tierra,
la dulce cintura de América.

Bautizó de nuevo sus tierras
como “Repúblicas Bananas,”
y sobre los muertos dormidos,
sobre los héroes inquietos
que conquistaron la grandeza,
la libertad y las banderas,
estableció la ópera bufa:
enajenó los albedríos
regaló coronas de César,
desenvainó la envidia, atrajo
la dictadura de las moscas,
moscas Trujillos, moscas Tachos,
moscas Carías, moscas Martínez,
moscas Ubico, moscas húmedas
de sangre humilde y mermelada,
moscas borrachas que zumban
sobre las tumbas populares,
moscas de circo, sabias
moscas entendidas en tiranía.

Entre las moscas sanguinarias
la Frutera desembarca,
arrasando el café y las frutas,
en sus barcos que deslizaron
como bandejas el tesoro
de nuestras tierras sumergidas.

Mientras tanto, por los abismos
azucarados de los puertos,
caían indios sepultados
en el vapor de la mañana:
un cuerpo rueda, una cosa
sin nombre, un número caído,
un racimo de fruta muerta
derramada en el pudridero.

~ Pablo Neruda, Canto General (1950)

Week of Giving Tuesday

Dear Friends,

We are happy to share with you our latest blog. It highlights the work and art of Walter Paz Joj ─ “5 Ajaw 3 Mak (November 29, 2020): The Living Art of a Kaqchikel Maya Aj Tz’ib’ “. Here is the link: http://discovermam.org/2020/11/5-ajaw-3-mak-november-29-2020/ . Enjoy the beautiful artworks and Walter’s high-resolution photos. This workshop took place before the pandemic spread into Guatemala and Mexico.

We have had to temporarily suspend the workshops until next year, but we are planning ahead when we can once again begin granting funds to individuals for these classes. The monetary support that our Mayanist community has given to Mayas For Ancient Maya (MAM) enable us to continue to support our Maya colleagues in educating their indigenous communities through the organizing workshop grants like that granted to Walter, where the living Maya people are able to connect with their ancestors through the ancient hieroglyphs.

Also, great news regarding Giving Tuesday Week! We have an anonymous donor who wants to match dollar for dollar what others pitch in until this coming Saturday. In other words, if you contribute $100, the donor will match it with $100 and thus you are able to double your commitment. Here is the link where you can go to our secure website to donate: http://discovermam.org/support/.

Thank you so much,
MAM Executive Committee

5 Ajaw 3 Mak (November 29, 2020): Walter Paz Joj: The Living Art of a Kaqchikel Maya Aj Tz’ib’

5 Ajaw 3 Mak: Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

Digital Illustration dedicated to Jun B’atz’ and Jun Chuwen, Mothers and Fathers of Maya art. Walter Paz Joj

Walter Paz Joj: The Living Art of a Kaqchikel Maya Aj Tz’ib’

For many of us, this Thanksgiving has been a holiday unlike any other in living memory, and it is a time for giving thanks for all that we have amidst a year of such sorrow and tragedy. So many of us celebrate in isolation this year, grateful for the lives of our loved ones, and grieving the loss of so many who have been taken from us. As we reported last month, the pandemic has taken a great toll on our Maya friends, many of whom have since been hit by two hurricanes in what is now a record year for so many storms. Jun Raqan, the one-legged Heart of Sky walks restlessly in circles on our warming planet. May the balance be restored, and may he be appeased after so much suffering. May the Maya people endure, as they always have.

I am profoundly grateful for the work our Maya friends have been doing to bring to life the ancient script, and it is our great honor this month to feature the work of Walter Paz Joj. Walter is a Kaqchikel artist and musician from Panajachel, Guatemala on the shores of Lake Atitlán, the place of emergence for many Highland Maya people. Walter has been involved in studying the Maya script for many years, having attended and taught at multiple workshops and Congresos. For those of you unacquainted with Walter’s incredible artwork, it becomes immediately apparent that his work conjures the greatest heights of Classic Maya artistry while making it forever new and alive, rich in color and imagery, heart and soul, and using both traditional and digital media in remarkably innovative ways.

Walter Paz Joj’s work has received increasingly wider recognition through his commissioned work that includes spectacular murals as well as published artwork for multiple conferences, including the Third International Congreso on Maya Hieroglyphic Writing: Ojer Maya’ Tz’ib’ in El Remate, Guatemala in 2016, where I had the good fortune to meet Walter for the first time, and where he taught the beginner’s workshop. As an emerging scholar and artist on the cutting edge of his field, Walter will be contributing an article on contemporary Maya writing in an upcoming edition of the journal The Mayanist:


Here, we present some of the work of Walter Paz Joj for your continued enjoyment, and to promote the astounding work of this modern Maya Aj Tz’ib’.

Sib’alaj Maltyox,

Michael Grofe, President
MAM Continue reading

4 Ajaw 3 Sak (October 20, 2020): Renewing the World, Hope for the Future: Reading and Writing the Ojeer Maya Tz’iib in Santa Cruz del Quiché

4 Ajaw 3 Sak: Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

Juan Rodrigo Guarchaj introduces the Pre-Congreso Workshop

Today, the Cholq’ij returns to the day 4 Ajaw, the day on which the world was renewed. Today, we continue to hope for a better tomorrow, and it is hard to believe that it has been one full cycle of the Cholq’ij since this pandemic arrived, and our world has been forever changed. I have recently heard from our good friend and President of the PLFM, Ajpub’ Pablo García Ixmatá, about the tremendous challenges facing his community and many others like his at this moment, and the painful devastation that Maya communities are having to contend with this year, and I think it is important to share some of his words with you today. Many Maya communities have suffered with lack of adequate healthcare after a surge of cases this past summer, and a reported infection rate that has remained consistently high since then. I am heartbroken to learn that Ajpub’ has lost multiple friends and family to COVID-19. He writes:

Dear Friend,

Thank you very much for the communication, the truth is it has been a very hard year… Of the dead alone in my community, approximately 60 people have left us, almost one daily in a small community, and there are still people at home, without medicine and without medical attention. The government has totally abandoned health centers, hospitals. It really is a collapse.

The truth is that many families need help, not only in my community but many, both for those who have died and those who lost jobs, they have nothing to eat. But, it is a huge struggle, truly…

The truth is, the modality of the classes now has been a challenge and obstacle for all of us. And of course, students and co-workers are missed. But let’s hope that little by little, we are re-emerging from this problem. As long as we do not have the medicine or vaccine for this disease, we have to take care of ourselves, and others.

The current challenges of the pandemic have made holding workshops and classes an impossibility for so many of us around the world, which has forced us to put our mini-grant program on hold, along with this year’s Congreso, previously scheduled for August. Nevertheless, Ajpub’ and I have discussed the possibility of promoting online workshops in the New Year to see if there is any interest, and to offer some hope for a better future as we are all so isolated right now, but there may be something we can do to provide some hope. Ajpub’ suggested, and I agreed that we should send out a survey to assess the potential for holding online Zoom classes for Maya teachers and students and to assess if they have online access, or what they may need in order to participate in an online workshop. Of course, we must recognize the over-arching priorities of health, work, and food security that are paramount right now for so many of our Maya colleagues, and we hope to be able to offer what we can, in whatever way is feasible within the parameters of our organization. In the coming months, I hope to update you on our progress, including any other reports back from Maya teachers and their communities that we receive.

Today, we publish our last report from one year ago, before the world changed so dramatically, and it reminds us of a better time. We hear from our friend and former Director of the PLFM, Juan Rodrigo Guarchaj Tzep, about the phenomenal pre-Congreso event he held at Rafael Landivar University in Santa Cruz del Quiché in October of 2019. Our friend, the renowned teacher Aj Xol Ch’ok facilitated the instruction. Originally designed as a workshop for only 20 students, it greatly expanded to include 60 participants from the surrounding K’iché, Ixil, Sakapulteko, and Uspanteko communities. The majority of the participants were speakers of K’iché, with others who were Spanish speakers, and several others speaking Kaqchikel, Q’eqchi’, and Tz’utujil. We fondly look back to a time when these kinds of large workshops were possible, and we look towards a future when we can all return to working together again.

May we all find healing and strength in this time, and we wish all of you and all of our Maya friends and their communities health, strength, and hope for the future.

Sib’alaj Maltyox, Chajij awib’,
Michael Grofe, President

Continue reading

3 Ajaw 2 Ch’en (September 10, 2020): Reading and Writing Tojol-ab’al: Ojer Maya’ Tz’iib’ in Las Margaritas, Chiapas

3 Ajaw 3 Ch’en: Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

I write to you beneath the orange, smoke-filled skies of California as we all face the challenges of such a year as this, while also remembering the solemn events of 19 years ago. We are now all connected in our isolation, and we think of our Maya friends and family who continue to endure, despite the many challenges that they continue to face.

We look with hope to a brighter future, when much-needed rain quenches the fires, when we have overcome this global pandemic, and when humanity and this wounded world may one day return to health again. We look forward to that day, when we can finally reunite in person again, and when we might all help to build a better future for our children, and for the Maya students and communities that we serve. Meanwhile, we are currently investigating the possibilities of continuing our work online, and supporting the work of Maya teachers that may be able to carry out their work in a safe, online environment wherever possible, as so many of us around the world are now doing.

This month, we look back to last year, and a report from Hermelinda Gómez López and the ejido Bajucú in Las Margaritas, Chiapas, where she and her team worked to promote literacy in Tojol-ab’al language among a group of students by teaching Tojol-ab’al grammar along with the Maya syllabary. This is one of many similar such efforts which have taken place in Tojol-ab’al communities in Chiapas after the Pre-Congreso events in 2018, where there is a growing  enthusiasm among young people about learning the ancient Maya script and taking pride in their shared Maya heritage and ancestry.

We look forward to being able to work with our Maya colleagues in person next year, when it will be safe for students and teachers to be together again. Until then, we remain united in our shared hope for a better world, and we are inspired to overcome our current obstacles in creative and productive ways.

Thank you for all of your ongoing support. We wish you all health and strength in the days ahead.


Michael Grofe, President

Welcome and presentation of the workshop

The Workshop on Maya Hieroglyphic Writing

In order to strengthen the ancient Mayan script of our ancestors and for our youth to know and recognize it as part of the knowledge of our grandparents, we held the workshop entitled, “Introduction to Maya Ojer Tz’iib’ – Mayan Epigraphy” (“Maya Writing and Tojol-ab’al Literacy”) on March 5th and 6th in 2019 in the ejido Bajucú, municipality of Las Margaritas, Chiapas, Mexico.

This workshop was attended by a group of young enthusiasts from Telebachillerato No. 05, “Carlos A. Carrillo,” the ejido Bajucú, who showed interest and were available during the workshop times. Support came from QFB F. Hernán Martínez Flores, Director of the institution for the proper development of activities. It is also noteworthy that this workshop was possible thanks to the mini-grant funds awarded by Mayas for Ancient Mayan (MAM), which allowed the transfer and purchase of supplies for implementing the workshop.

Explanation of the Indigenous languages of Chiapas

On March 5, 2019, the workshop began by welcoming the participants and pointing out the purpose and the methodology of the work. Subsequently, a brief introduction of Maya epigraphy, with its history and origins, was given, emphasizing that before the arrival of the Spaniards, Mesoamerican Mayan writing was through glyphs and was represented by symbols that could be found on ceramics, wood carving, stone, bone, steles, and walls, and in codices (books). Participants were surprised and interested in this information.

Later, the topic of the grammar of the Tojol-ab’al language was addressed; its importance, the rules for its writing, alphabet and background in ancient Mayan writing were highlighted. The young people immediately did some exercises using the correct grammar of Tojol-ab’al, and their doubts were resolved.

Practice in the use of Tojol-ab’al grammar

On March 6th, the second day of the workshop, feedback of what was seen on the first day was given first. Immediately after, a comparison of the writing of our ancestors was made with the writing of today, stressing that we Mayan speakers understand its importance as the basis of our writing, so we should strengthen and value our knowledge of it, because it is part of our identity.

Afterwards, the Mayan writing system was unveiled, noting that it employs both logograms and phonetic signs to interpret the glyphs. The use of syllabary, its pronunciation, writing method, and the structure of the words were demonstrated. Also, the numbering system from 1 to 20 was shown.

After addressing these topics, participants did some individual exercises to put into practice the knowledge they had acquired, and then they trained in teams to form syllabic words with support from the syllabary.

Working in teams to form words with the support of the syllabary

Finally, they presented their work. They appreciated us teaching them this kind of knowledge, noting that they were unaware of Mayan writing before. They also noted that they were unaware of the correct use of the Tojol-ab’al grammar and commented that they found the workshop important, since they are speakers of the Tojol-ab’al language but do not know how to write it.

This workshop was successfully carried out thanks to the introductory reading and writing manual of the Tz’iib’ system provided in the Maya Epigraphy Pre-Congress workshop, “Introduction to the Operation and Use of the Tz’iib Ojeer Maya,” in November 2017 in the city of Comitán de Domínguez, Chiapas. This workshop was organized by the Tojol-ab’al Language Documentation Center (CDIT) through its teacher, K’anal Ajpub’ (María Bertha Sántiz Pérez) with support from the Universidad Intercultural de Chiapas (UNICH), in coordination with the Fundación Proyecto Francisco Marroquín (PLFM) and the Rafael Landívar University of Guatemala. Support and supplies were provided by a mini-grant from Mayan for Ancient Mayas (MAM), With help, I was able to carry out this workshop satisfactorily and without any setbacks.

Hermelinda Gómez López
Maya speaker of Tojol-ab’al



2 Ajaw 3 Yaxk’in (August 1, 2020): “Unity Through Maya Cultural Experience”: Maya Writing and Calendrics with INNO’ON – LA ’OH at the University of Belize

2 Ajaw 3 Yaxk’in: Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

The INNO’ON-LA’OH workshop participants receive their certificates of completion.

“Unity Through Maya Cultural Experience”: Maya Writing and Calendrics with INNO’ON – LA ’OH at the University of Belize

Things have been unusually quiet with us at MAM, since the pandemic has forced us to postpone all of our activities until next year. This summer, we delve into the archive of unpublished reports and bring you a report from Clinton Cho with some wonderful photos of the introductory workshop given by INNO’ON – LA ’OH at the University of Belize in Belmopan in April of 2019. If you look closely at some of the photos, you can see the image of the remarkable Komkom vase newly excavated from Baking Pot, Belize in 2016, which contains the longest known text found on a ceramic vessel, with some 202 glyphs! Also featured is a Maya Calendar tool, beautifully made from wood.

This workshop was taught by Jorge De Leon, and facilitated by Clinton Cho, with Dr. Pio Saqui, and Felicita Cantun. This is a continuation of the previously successful workshop facilitated through INNO’ON-LA ’OH in 2018.

In these challenging times, we are wishing all of our Maya colleagues and supporters well, and looking forward to a time in the near future when all of this will be behind us. We look forward to working together for a brighter future in which Maya cultures, languages, and communities are healthy and thriving. Thank you for all of your continued support through these challenging times.

Niib’oolal, Bo’otik, Bantyox,

Michael Grofe, President

The Dresden Codex

On behalf of INNO’ON – LA ’OH, the Mayan student association, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to Mayas for Ancient Mayan for assisting us financially to host our Epigraphy Workshop 2019 event. Our event was successful and brought students and individuals from various non-governmental organizations in unity through the Maya culture experience, and they received the knowledge of writing and deciphering hieroglyphs. Thank you once again for making our event possible.


Clinton Cho, Vice President

Continue reading