Report from El Estor, Izabal, Guatemala
Maya Epigraphy Workshop forQ’eqchi’ Maya-speaking Teachers
Wajxaqib’ Ajmaq, April 6, 2015
B’eleeb No’j, April 7, 2015
By: Victor Maquin, Q’eqchi’ Maya-speaker, Event Coordinator
In the head town of the municipality of El Estor, Department of Izabal, Guatemala, located in the territory of the Q’eqchi’ Maya people, on the shores of Lake Isabal, a training workshop took place on Maya epigraphy focused toward Q’eqchi’-speaking school teachers, in order to promote the recovery of Maya cultural values, specifically the ancient Maya writing and its application in the school environment.
The activity was developed with the participation of representatives, women and men, from various educational institutions from the northern region of Guatemala. The training workshop came about through the efforts of Victor Maquin, Event Coordinator, who participated in the Second International Congress of Maya Epigraphers in Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico, in May, 2014, and as part of the agreement to spread the acquired knowledge from the said international event, and thanks to the help of Dr. Bruce Love, president of the international organization MAM (Maya Antiguo para los Mayas) with headquarters in the United States.
Dates: Wajxaquib’ Ajmaq and B’eleeb No’j (Maya Calendar)
Monday and Tuesday, April 6 and 7, 2015 (Gregorian Calendar)
Place: Municipal Library, El Estor, Department of Izabal
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Instructor: Hector Xol, Maya epigraphy group Tz’iib’ab’, Sololá, Guatemala, linguist and writer in Q’eqchi’, Researcher with Slovakian Institute of Archaeology and History (SAHI) at the Uaxactun Archaeological Project, Petén. Trained in linguistics and Maya epigraphy at Oxlaljuuj Keej Maya Ajtz’iib’, OKMA, Guatemala; and at the University of Texas in Austin, USA.
Event Coordinator: Victor Maquin, participant at the Second International Congress of Maya Epigraphers in Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico, in May, 2014.
The training workshop was attended by a total of 32 Maya Q’eqchi’ participants, mainly practicing rural school teachers in the Department of Education, leaders of indigenous organizations, governmental and non-governmental organizations from the municipalities of El Estor and Livingston, Department of Izabal, as well as from Pansós, Department of Alta Verapaz.
The event took place thanks to inter-institutional coordination with Defensoría Q’eqchi’/Asociación Estoreña para el Desarrollo Integral AEPDI, Comité Internacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos CISP, Asociación Ak’ Tenamit, Casa de la Cultura Maya Q’eqchi’, Municipalidad de El Estor, Izabal and Dirección Departamental de Izabal del Ministerio de Educación, who at the local level helped with the logistics of the event, such as public announcements and invitations by means of social networks and the internet.
During the event, representatives from the following organizations participated:
Defensoría Q’eqchi’ AEPDI, El Estor, Izabal
Asociación Ak’ Tenamit, Livingston, Izabal
Casa de la Cultura Maya Q’eqchi’, El Estor, Izabal
Organización CISP, El Estor, Izabal
Grupo Aj Tz’iibab’, Sololá, Sololá
Escuela Normal Intercultural Oxib’ Kej, El Estor, Izabal
Instituto Nacional de Educación Básica JAVB, El Estor, Izabal
Liceo Shalom, El Estor, Izabal
Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta San Pablo I, El Estor, Izabal
Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Semuy II Chajmahik, El Estor, Izabal
Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Cahaboncito, Panzós, Alta Verapaz
Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Semuy, El Estor, Izabal
Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Semuy I Selempin, El Estor, Izabal
Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Naranjal Yaxté, El Estor, Izabal
Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Chinebal, El Estor, Izabal
Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Sepur Zarco, El Estor, Izabal
Strengthen the process of cultural awareness aimed at Q’eqchi’ Maya speakers by means of actions and teaching strategies to retrieve and promote ancestral knowledge related to the Maya epigraphy.
Know the basics for the study of ancient Maya writing and its application in educational and school activities.
Training Workshop for Q’eqchi’ Maya Speakers on Maya Epigraphy
Registration of participants
The event began with the registration of participants in their respective levels to keep track of attendance, done by the support staff of the organizing institutions (Defensoría Q’eqchi’, CISP, and Ak’ Tenamit).
Victor Maquin, Event Coordinator, was responsible for giving welcoming remarks to the attendees and opening the training workshop by reflecting on the importance of the event for the exchange of experiences and gathering of ancestral knowledge from the contents of the workshop, which should positively impact projects that develop in community organizations and schools regarding the revaluation of the Maya Culture.
Introduction of Participants and Workshop Goals
A personal introductions were performed by Romel Reyes, Director of Defensoría Q’eqchi’/ AEPDI, in which participants indicated their names, institution and place of origin.
Then he presented the objectives of the event, with emphasis on strengthening the process of cultural awareness, stressing the institutional interest in promoting this type of training activities for Maya Q’eqchi ‘ people, and taking into account the need to regain the knowledge about ancient Maya writing to apply it to teaching.
Maya Invocation and Workshop Expectations
Carlos Quim, Director of the Education Program Association Ak’ Tenamit, was responsible for making the spiritual invocation in the Maya Q’eqchi’ language calling for the protection of the Creator and Maker of the Universe in the process of recovery of the wisdom we have inherited from our ancestors.
Subsequently he requested the participation of teachers to verbalize their expectations of the workshop. Most attendees expressed interest in learning new knowledge and exchange of experiences; several participants also mentioned the importance of sharing new strategies and ways of implementing ancient Maya writing, knowing the methodology of Maya epigraphy and its compatibility with intercultural bilingual education, among other issues raised by the participants.
Presentation Topic: Basics of Maya epigraphy
Victor Maquin, coordinator of the event, made a brief PowerPoint presentation on the basics of Maya epigraphy and its linguistic implications and educational applications in the classroom. It was explained that Maya epigraphy is a science that deals with the study of inscriptions of the ancestors who used various materials such as stone, ceramics, manuscripts, among others, for a writing system that combines phonetic and logographic signs to record historical events, as well as astronomical, calendrical, etc.
Deciphering Maya writing at different times has had as main exponents researchers, linguists and archaeologists of different nationalities: Thompson, Morley, Coe, Knorosov, Schele, Proskouriakoff, Stuart, Love, Grube. In recent years, several Guatemalan researchers have dedicated themselves to this work: Fahsen, Mo’, Xoyón, Xol, Cuxil, Garay, among others.
Finally, the linguistic implications of Maya epigraphy with current Mayan languages were addressed: Itza, Mopan, Ch’orti, Yucatec Maya, Ch’ol, emphasizing the approach of Maya writing in the classroom to bring out the importance of ancestral knowledge in the education system.
Presentation Topic: Introduction to the Use and Knowledge of Tz’iib ‘
Hector Xol, Maya Q’eqchi’ linguist and lead facilitator for the training workshop, conducted an extensive power point presentation on the use and knowledge of Tz’iib’, historical, linguistic rules, with examples and exercises that were used during the event. Using a participatory methodology, the facilitator of the workshop responded to the questions and concerns of teachers, who actively participated in each of the activities.
Event organizers gave the 32 participants a booklet on the knowledge and use of Tz’iib’, Maya vocabulary and logograms, as part of the support material for teachers. The booklet provides for easy appropriation of information on Tz’iib’ tools and guidelines for the development of examples and exercises, instruments designed by Hector Xol, training workshop facilitator.
To optimize the work and achieve the expected impact, working groups were organized so that each teacher could practice how to use the Maya vocabulary and logograms in the classroom. The presentation of the exercises by applying the Maya script to write the names of the participants expressed the interest and enthusiasm of teachers to recover ancestral knowledge.
The workshop facilitator explained the concept of the hieroglyph, the glyph, the difference in the sounds of Mayan language of the inscriptions and sounds of the current Mayan languages, the division of Mayan languages through history, historical references to Tz’iib’ in the Popol Wuj, Chilam B’alam and countless images and photographs of Mayan artifacts and Mayan codices.
Hector Xol explained the Tz’iib System, showing examples of words written in syllables, logograms, and combinations of syllables and logograms, the structure of words and signs. He explained the principles of reading and writing as follows:
- Skipping vowel pronunciation of the last syllable.
- Principle of substitution.
- Principle of repetition.
- Mixed signs.
The two days of activity passed with determination on the part of teachers, only regretting not having more time to deepen their knowledge of Maya writing. From his personal experience and after many years of work in the Q’eqchi’ linguistic community, as well as other Mayan communities in the country, the Q’eqchi’ expert, Hector Xol, enhanced the skills of teachers, some with high academic profiles, capturing their interest in the study of Maya writing to strengthen the identity of the Maya Q’eqchi’ population.
Workshop Evaluation and Closing Ceremony
Victor Maquin, Event Coordinator, conducted the oral Training Workshop Evaluation based on the following aspects:
Through brainstorming, participants expressed orally their views on the training workshop, highlighting the quality of the topics and contents, expertise and experience of the facilitator, and the importance of the content addressed, along with the methodology used during the event, including work groups, slideshow, teaching materials, etc. Some participants gave their suggestions for addressing the issue of Maya epigraphy, in theory and practice, at the impressive Mayan cities of Tikal or Quirigua.
It was also recommended that more training workshops are organized, always dynamic, participatory, and practical, organizing more group work to strengthen the performance of teachers in their schools. Finally, he spoke of the importance of the exchange of experiences and communication among participants, to enrich teaching.
To conclude the event, Hector Xol addressed the attendees, thanking them for the attention paid to issues brought out during the training workshop, hoping to be followed in the coming months by a second training event with the support of the PLFM, considering that this first event was supported by the MAM organization (Mayas for Ancient Mayan), which will further strengthen the capacities of teachers, something that will have a transcendental importance for Mayan communities, as it will allow the resurgence of the use of Maya writing, and which represents an opportunity to improve the educational process in the territory Maya Q’eqchi’.
Later Romel Reyes, Director of Defensoría Q’eqchi ‘/ AEPDI, proceeded to deliver the certificates of participation to each of the teachers, documents that have the endorsement of the Ministry of Education of Guatemala, through the Departmental Director of the Education Department of Izabal. Also participating in the presentation of diplomas was Hector Xol, workshop facilitator and Victor Maquin, event coordinator, who took the opportunity to thank the international organization MAM, for their financial support, to realize this training workshop.
The Training Workshop on Maya epigraphy enhanced the process of strengthening the capacities of the Mayan-speaking Q’eqchi’population, mainly by an outstanding group of teachers from various schools, both in the urban and rural areas, to multiply knowledge aimed at achieving an ancestral identity as Maya Q’eqchi’ people in the context of a multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual context. It was also attended by several community leaders and leaders of indigenous organizations who were pleased to have such a positive impact within their groups.
Due to the interest and enthusiasm shown by all participants, the event coordinator and other members of the Organizing Committee agreed to hold in June 2015 a second Workshop Training with two days of theoretical work on the theme of Maya writing and a third day of practical work in Quirigua and Tikal.
Although they do not have the necessary resources, there were several ideas to raise financial and material support for this second workshop, with the support of organizations that have been identified as follows:
Association Ak’ Tenamit:
Responsible for providing two buses for the transfer from El Estor to Quirigua and Tikal (the authorities of the institution authorized this resource).
Francisco Marroquin Linguistic Project (PLFM):
Responsible for providing two facilitators for the workshop and vehicle for the transfer of facilitators from Antigua Guatemala and Sololá (pending negotiations with the authorities of the institution).
Municipality of El Estor, Izabal:
Responsible for providing accommodation and meals for two facilitators as well as fuel for two buses (pending negotiations with the Mayor).
MAM (Ancient Maya for Maya):
Responsible for providing a percentage of food for three days of activity (pending negotiations with the authorities of the institution).
Defensoría Q’eqchi ‘/ AEPDI:
Reproduces the material for the workshop and also will provide a percentage of food for three days of activity (pending negotiations with the authorities of the institution).
Among other monitoring activities, it was proposed to organize a process of lifelong learning, through a Diploma in Maya Education with different themes, such as: Worldview Maya, Mathematics Maya, Calendar Maya, Maya Astronomy, Maya Philosophy, Maya law, Agroecology Maya , Maya Epigraphy, Maya History, Maya Language, Maya Identity, Maya Land and Territory, Maya Science and Technology, Maya Music and Dance, Intercultural-Multicultural-Educational Maya, Bilingual Intercultural Education, etc., to strengthen the comprehensive development processes of the Maya Q’eqchi’ people of Izabal.
To create this diploma it will be necessary to contact several academic institutions such as the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences FLACSO, University Kaqchikel Maya, Maya Ixil University, Sak Chuwen, Uk’ux B’e, Ministry of Culture and Sports, Santiago Development Project PRODESSA, Pop No’j, Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala ALMG, National Education Council CNEM Maya, Presidential Commission on Discrimination and Racism CODISRA, Mayas for Ancient Mayan (MAM), Aj Tz’iib’ab’, Francisco Marroquin Linguistic Project, among other public and private institutions.
To undertake the creation of this diploma, an organizing committee will be formed to make a business plan with proposed content and potential sponsors to realize this idea.
The future looks bright!