1 Ajaw 18 Yaxk’in (August 17, 2017): Tojolab’al Students revive Ancient Maya Writing

1 Ajaw 18 Yaxk’in. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

Tojolab’al Students revive Ancient Maya Writing in las Margaritas, Chiapas

On this auspicious day, we celebrate the day 1 Ajaw, the namesake of the Hero Twin Hunahpu in the Popol Vuh, and the day commemorating the rebirth of Venus as Morning Star in the Dresden Codex Venus Table. Hunahpu willingly sacrificed himself in the fires of Xibalbá, and some say he became the sun itself, like the Central Mexican Nanahuatzin, who gives his light and his life so that all things can live—a true act of generosity. Some say he is akin to the self-sacrificing Quetzalcoatl, whose heart becomes the planet Venus, much as the planet itself appears to dive into the fiery sun in the evening sky, only to valiantly reappear several days later as the Morning Star.

While the reappearance of Venus in the morning took place back in March of this year, the brilliant planet is still visible as Morning Star on this day, and we are now just four days from a remarkable total solar eclipse—yet another focus of both the Dresden Venus Table, and the Lunar Table that follows it in that incredible Postclassic document, distilled from many generations of Maya observers. This sophisticated knowledge of astronomy, and the profound, symbolic stories which were used to instruct and educate on multiple levels, are examples of the rich cultural and scientific achievements of the Maya which deserve our deepest respect and recognition.

Knowledge of Maya writing and astronomy was almost completely destroyed by the fires of ignorance some 500 years ago, and for too long it has remained relatively untaught and uncelebrated in classrooms throughout the world—especially in classes of young Maya students. Thankfully, that is all starting to change. We at MAM uphold the importance of celebrating and disseminating the knowledge of the achievements of the Maya past, and helping Maya teachers who are passionately working with their students to help them learn the writing of their ancestors.

In the spirit of generosity, and celebration this month, we report back from the field from Tojolab’al students in las Margaritas, Chiapas with a report from K’anal Ajpub’ Santiz—who likewise takes her namesake from this day! Though this workshop took place almost one year ago, we are still catching up with receiving and publishing reports from some of the thirty mini-grants we have granted over the past year, and we hope to be able to publish as many of these reports as we can to acknowledge the excellent work of as many of our mini-grant recipients as possible.

Furthermore, K’anal Ajpub’ Santiz will be coordinating another pre-Congreso event that we are helping to support, scheduled to take place in Chiapas in September of this year. The purpose of this event will be to work with Chontal, Tzotzil, Tojolob’al, and Tz’eltal speakers who have not yet participated in the revitalization of the hieroglyphic script. If you would like to help contribute your support for events such as this, please visit our donation page where we have now initiated a monthly subscribership. We invite you to become a sustaining member of MAM, and we thank you for all of your generous support!


Ts’akatalex and Gracias de Corazon,

Michael J. Grofe, President

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