3 Ajaw 18 Sak (November 5, 2017): The First Pre-Congreso

3 Ajaw 18 Sak. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

The First Pre-Congreso: Expanding the Reach of the Hieroglyphic Renaissance

This month, as we remember all those dearly departed we have lost, and as the full moon rises high to the zenith above the Maya world, I wanted to celebrate a shining light of new undertakings this year by publishing a detailed report from Juan Rodrigo Guarchaj, the Executive Director of the Proyecto Lingüístico Francisco Marroquín, regarding the First Pre-Congreso of Ancient Maya Writing that took place this past July 11-14 in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. This was the first of four such events in 2017 designed to reach out to additional Maya communities who have not yet taken part in the revitalization of the hieroglyphic script. This first event in Cobán was able to reach speakers of ten different Mayan languages, while two additional pre-Congreso events in Huehuetenango and Takalik Abaj followed in October, reaching out to additional Maya communities and teachers. This first event, along with an upcoming event to take place this month in Chiapas, was supported in part by MAM, with much thanks to our generous supporters, along with the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala, the Guatemala Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, and the PLFM.

While MAM was regretfully unable to fund all of these new events, we are very glad to have been able to lend our support where our budget allows, and we are thrilled to see our Maya colleagues organizing and procuring funding for these larger events, with the admirable goal of reaching additional Maya communities. We will be working together with the PLFM among others to invite all of these new Maya teachers to apply for our next round of mini-grants, and we hope to meet them all at the next International Congreso next summer! We applaud the wonderful hard work of Juan Guarchaj, Ajpub’ Pablo García, and our many May colleagues who are seeking to connect together the many different international Maya language communities through the shared heritage of the Maya hieroglyphic script.

This December and January, I am planning a trip to Guatemala and Belize, where I am helping to organize a workshop for Belizean Maya Aj Tz’iib’, and working with our various Maya colleagues to plan for the upcoming Congreso and the coming years ahead. I am looking forward to the trip, and to reporting back to all of you with news of our future plans.


Michael J. Grofe, President MAM

First Pre-Congreso of Ancient Maya Writing
Coban – Alta Verapaz / July 11, 12, 13 and 14, 2017

Chak’ama’ jun rutzil awach, kweye’j chi ri loq’olaj Uk’u’x Kaj Uk’u’x Ulew katutewechi ́j, xuquje’ kuk’am ub’e’al ucholajil ri nimalaj chak patan kab’an pa kiwi’ ri e qawinaqil. (K’iche’ Maya Language). Please receive a brotherly greeting, hoping that the Creator and Shaper is pouring blessings and positive energies upon you, in the same way that guides you in each of your activities that you perform to strengthen the actions you take in the guidance of your position.

The Foundation PLFM Francisco Marroquín Linguistic Project, and the
Pre-Congreso Workshop Commission of 2017 would like to present to MAM our deep appreciation for the financial support shown in the execution of the First Pre-Congreso Workshop for Ojer Maya Tz’iib’ held on 11, 12, 13 and 14 of July in Cobán, Alta Verapaz. We would like to present our narrative and financial report, with satisfaction from the participants, especially as they have achieved the objectives set out in promoting this practice of raising awareness of Maya-speakers towards a critical thinking in the discussion of proposals and alternatives in the vindication of culture, at the same time on the part of the participants taking a commitment to promote and spread the culture focused on ensuring the recovery and use of knowledge, because only by knowing our past and present reality can we contribute to our future.

We value the support of other state entities such as the Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala, united in a single goal we have been able to carry out this task, which is reflected in our report; At the same time we take the opportunity to request the use of a portion of the remaining funds for the next workshop, and continue to count on your support in the realization of the other workshops to be held this year. We hope to hear from you regarding any of your concerns, assuming your availability for any communication and/or extension to this report.

From the Organizing Committee
Ojer Maya Tz’iib’

Juan Rodrigo Guarchaj
Executive Director of the PLFM
Coordinator of the Workshop

Group of participants in the event, from different Mayan linguistic communities.

Activity: First Pre-Congress Workshop Ojer Maya ‘Tziib’
Location: Cobán – Alta Verapaz. Guatemala
Dates: July 11, 12, 13 and 14, 2017.
Participants: 50 participants from Mayan Linguistic Communities in the northeastern area of Guatemala: Itzaj, Mopán, Ch’orti ‘, Achi, Ixil, Q’eqchi’, Sakapulteko, Uspanteko and Poqomchi ‘. 4 members of the Organizing Committee. 01 facilitator.
General Coordination: Executive Directorate, and Specific Commission of Epigraphy of the PLFM Foundation.


In accordance with what was planned, the first Ojer Maya’ Tz’iib’ Pre-Congreso event was held, where relevant details were presented, as well as the participation was successful as there was the presence of Maya speakers from different Linguistic communities of the North-East region which are: Itzaj, Mopan, Ch’orti ‘, Ixil, Achi, Q’eqchi’, Sakapulteko, Uspanteko and Poqomchi ‘.

The event as such, was specifically programmed to give participation to people who fill the requirements according to a profile established at the beginning and as a beginner, it was based on knowing basic aspects of the Ojer Maya ‘Tz’iib’ , The structure of a word, the types of signs that make up the system and structure of a written text and identifying its elements, such as calendars and the main components of a sentence presented to them through the use of technology such as powerpoint presentations, exemplifications and explanations by the facilitator in order to develop the themes developed.

Mayan participants writing words with the Tz’iib’ (writing system).


The first Pre-Congreso of Ojer Maya ‘Tz’iib,’ or Ancient Maya Writing, was carried out in accordance with the established objectives of promoting the study of the Maya Writing System for Maya-speakers for sensitization towards critical thinking in the discussion of proposals and alternatives in the revindication of Mesoamerican culture. It was based in the same way to present basic aspects in the system of ancient texts presenting explanations, descriptions and demonstrations so that the participants appropriated their operation and exercise it to write words and phrases in their languages, as preparation for the International Congress of Ojer Maya ‘Tz’iib’, to be held in May 2018. Maya speakers of different linguistic communities were included in the study and awareness of the Maya writing system to provide a basis for the critical study of this ancient Mayan knowledge.

On the other hand, the basic aspects of the identification of the way of recording pre-Hispanic historical events through the different Mayan calendars were revealed: Long Count, Haab ‘and Cholq’ij, mainly. Through the reading of hieroglyphic texts and colonial texts written with Latin alphabet, important aspects of Mayan philosophical thought were described: bases of numbering, number meanings, calendrical bases, and so on.

Participants in the workshop.


In accordance with the specific plan of this first workshop, preparatory activities were carried out, supported by a schedule of activities that could be carried out within the time limit. The development of the event was organized through a specific program in order to carry out an order in the development of each one of the topics addressed and thus to look for alternatives to improve quality in the search for balance and harmony among the invited Maya brothers. The themes addressed were the following:

Introduction to Mayan language and writing
– The Maya language of inscriptions: Mayan language family, division, separation, territory, etc.
– Materials used to translate Mayan literature.
– History of decipherment: studies, research, contribution of foreign researchers.

The structure of the Maya hieroglyphic writing system
– Structure of hieroglyphic blocks.
– Glyph composition, infixation and combination.
– Phonetics (syllables).
– Phonetic complements.
– Order of reading of the hieroglyphs.
– Syllabary.
– Semantic determinants.
– Polyvalence, polyphony and homophony.
– Reading of texts in hieroglyphics.
– The order of words in Mayan hieroglyphs.
– Composition of texts.

The Mayan numerals
– Mayan numbers and calendar.
– Tzolk’in.
– Haab.
– The Long Count.
– Order of the elements of a sentence: VOS.

Chilam Balam de Chumayel
– General description of the different versions of the Yucatec Mayan books called Chilam Balam.
– Contents, Authors.
– Analysis and description of folios 35 and 36 of Chumayel Maya Chilam Balam book.

Note: According to the requirements and needs of the event, and for the adequate content, sequence, themes and organization of this workshop, we chose to use the Course Manual called “The Millennial Power of Maya Language and Writing” by John Chuchiak and Guido Krempel. 2017.

Participants receive their certificates.


In order to have the appreciation of the participants in relation to the event as a whole, a point of conclusions and recommendations was placed in the programming to get the feedback for improving future activities, in this way we gave the space to each one through an open evaluation, whose contributions were of great importance Feedback was collected as follows:

Pre-Congress contributions

– Contributes to the strengthening of the use of the Mayan language, richness of language.
– Experience that will be applied in the professional field.
– The induction was great as it began with an introduction of the history of our peoples.
– They gained a lot of knowledge about reading Maya glyphs.
– The contribution will be to let young people know the form of Mayan writing.

– Although, a workshop is not enough but serves to continue strengthening the Mayan language, as a professional preparation to serve the community.
– It was meaningful learning.
– The preparation of the person who gave the workshop is evident.
– Recovering the Ojer Maya ‘Tz’iib’ is one of the fundamental pillars to rescue and strengthen the identity of the current Maya.
– The knowledge of the ancient writing or writing of the grandmothers and grandfathers contains many mysteries that the current Maya needs to know to advance.
– Epigraphy (Maya) is a discipline that deserves to be practiced and known by all because it is the information and historical wealth of our peoples.
– As language communities (Maya) we must know and use hieroglyphic writing in order not to lose this cultural legacy.
– The workshop was very interesting because it was identified on how to decipher or read.
– They could get to know and recognize the different meanings of the images and they represent, I could know the ancient script and write our names.

– Keep in touch in the different media to contribute to the strengthening of Mayan culture.
–  Invite teachers to function in different educational centers.
– Follow up on this workshop.
– To make institutional alliances for the formation of personnel in Mayan epigraphy
– Epigraphy should be studied as the basis of Mayan culture.
– To request the State of Guatemala to include in its annual budget for the scientific training of researchers of the Mayan culture.
– That the institutions that promote these events, workshops, etc. Keep up the work.
– Find a more comfortable place for the next workshop.
– Continue with this project as it is very important.
– Make workshops continuously and build adaptable standards for each Mayan language.
– Make the workshop more practical.
– Provide Maya writing courses in language communities to access information.
– Improve logistics.
– That children and young people receive this type of workshop.

Participants in the workshop.


The Planning, coordination and execution of the activity was carried out by a Specific Commission under the coordination of the Executive Direction of the PLFM, in the planning and programming of executed by means of a work schedule established with dates and time provable and executable, at the same time In keeping with the objectives, thematic and methodology applied in the course, taking into account the involvement of the participants in supporting and making feasible the specific actions to get to know, apply and divulge the importance and use of the Ojer Maya’ Tz’ib’ system. Initially, an exhaustive selection of the participants to this pre-congress event was made, taking advantage of all possible means available, such as telephone communication, e-mail, written invitation letter, fax and other resources, and results presented are the best indicators of the communication, and participation that was achieved.

The different activities carried out, from the organization, planning and inter-institutional coordination allowed to successfully develop the Pre-Congress of Ojer Maya ‘Tz’iib’. Through the assessments and interest manifested by each of the participants can be seen the achievement of the objectives set, as well as the learning of the topics discussed. It is necessary to recognize the weaknesses that can be improved in the future and to recognize the support of the other organizations in coordination and execution, among which we can mention the Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala (ALMG), to the Ministry of Culture and Sports (MICUDE), Landívar University (URL), and above all to the Mayas for Ancient Mayan (MAM).

Participants were from ten different Mayan language communities.

The gender of the participants.