We dedicate this blog posting to our dear friend and Maya colleague, Ana Patricia Martínez Huchim affectionately known as Pati. We lost her to cancer July 27th of this year at the age of 54. Born in 1964 in city of Tizimin, Yucatan, she lived there with her extended family all her life. She had been an active member of Mayas for Ancient Mayan (MAM) since 2006 and dedicated her life to documenting and preserving the Maya language and culture. She enjoyed the ethnographic work of gathering folktales from local Maya and from Colonial and post Colonial documents, recording them and sharing them in printed publications and online. She also drew from her own personal experience as a child growing up Maya, remembering folktales told to her by her parents. We are happy to know that MAM as an organization helped her in her work by awarding mini-grants to her on several occasions, thus supplying her with resources to help her follow her dream of promoting Maya culture. With these funds she conducted Maya calendar and glyphic workshops where she taught other Mayas in the local community how to write their ancient script and calendar.
Her undergraduate degree was in the anthropological sciences, specializing in linguistics and literature. She received her Master’s Degree in ethnohistory from the Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY). Ethnographic fieldwork was one of her many skills and using these skills, she gathered folk stories of her people and shared them with the world. Her emphasis was often on the everyday life of the women and children of Yucatan. In May of this year, Arthur Dixon published an online article about her in the journal Latin American Literature Today. The following are Pati’s words from that article:
My work is unique because my protagonists are Maya women, which has not happened often in literature in Yucatec Maya. I artistically re-elaborate the memory of Maya women who performed labors that were stigmatized by society. In my texts, Maya identity is recreated as part of the characters’ environment; it flows with agility to the readers’ eyes; in the everyday lives of the characters we find Maya traditions and religious beliefs, in a plot that draws in readers. And the meaning of the peoples’ names is intimately linked to their activities and ways of being.
For her many writings, she received several awards during her career including the Enedino Jiménez Indigenous Literature Prize in 2005 for her book U k’á jsajil u ts u ‘noj k’áax (in English: Memories of the Heart of the Mountain).
In addition to the book and short stories mentioned above she published the following works:
- 2005 the short story series Chen konel (In English – It’s too much). It won first place in the Alfredo Barrera Vásquez contest for Maya Language Narrative.
- 1997 coauthored with Isaura Inés Ortiz Yam the book U tsikbalo’ob mejen paalal (in Spanish Cuentos enraizados, in English Stories for Children)
- 2016 U yóol xkaambal xíiw (in Spanish Contrayerba in English The Heart of the Contrayerva Herb)
- 2015 Tsimin tuunich jwáay mis yéetel aluxo’ob (in English The Horse of Stone, The jwáay cat and the aluxes),
- 1996 La estructura composicional de los relatos de la etnoliteratura del maya-yucateco (The compositional structure of the ethno-literary stories of the Yucatec Maya)
- 1997 The Chi’chi’es. Malicious Personages of the Yucatec Maya Ethnoliterature
- 2005, 2007, 2008 Diccionario maya de bolsillo (in English – The Maya Pocket Dictionary).
- She founded, directed and edited the bilingual magazine (Maya and Spanish) called K’aaylay. (in Spanish – El canto de la memoria; in English – The song of memory), of which 76 issues were published between July 2006 and October 2010. Bruce Love, MAM’s president emeritus, and co-publisher Meghan Rubenstein of Contributions to Mesoamerican Studies, have received permission from Pati’s family to post all of these issues online to share with the world. They can be viewed here: https://brucelove.com/research/contribution_004/
Pati collaborated with other writers in the journals Navegaciones Zur, Camino Blanco, La palabra florida, Escritos, Columba, Nicte t’an , Saastún and El Juglar supplement del Diario del Sureste. Her work was also published in various local and national newspapers. She was frequently asked to present at ceremonies and conferences including the following:
- Voces mayas de fines del siglo XX (Maya voices of the late twentieth century)
- La tradición oral de Xocén, Yucatán (The oral tradition of Xocen, Yucatan)
- La función del cuento oral maya (The function of the oral Maya story)
- Costumbres mortuorias entre los mayas (Mortuary customs among the Maya)
- La conversación de los mayores (The conversation of the elders)
Here we share a video of one of her presentations called “Coloquio ‘Las güeras y las prietas’ 2006, Ana Patricia Martínez. Conferencia Magistral (vespertina).”
She was also a teacher and a mentor. She taught ethnohistory at the Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY); in 2009, she taught at the Universidad de Oriente in Valladolid, Yucatán (in coordination with the University of Salamanca) the Maya-Yucatecan introductory course (Maaya T’aan). She also taught Mayan language courses in the United States among transnational immigrants from Yucatan in the San Francisco Bay Area. The year she died, she was recognized with a “Hechas en Yucatán 2018” award.
Some of her titles and leadership roles were Director of the Popolnaj Máximo Huchin (Asociación Civil) in Yucatán; Researcher at the Centro de Apoyo a la Investigación Histórica de Yucatán and the Instituto para el Desarrollo de la Cultura Maya del Estado de Yucatán and Coordinator for the Academia de la Lengua Maya del Ayuntamiento de Mérida. In 1999 to 2000 she collaborated on the project Plano Topográfico de Cisteil, Yaxcabá, Yucatán, a program to recover the oral tradition of the Yucatec Maya people.
She will be missed by friends and loved ones alike. Regarding her shining personality and her writing and story collection, Dr. Love wrote “Pati was bright, colorful, humorous, happily giving voice to her colleagues, and deeply celebrating the culture and language of native Yucatan.” Below we have posted several pictures of her gathered from MAM’s archives.
-MAM Executive Committee