12 Ajaw 13 Sak (October 31, 2018): Remembering the Ancestors

12 Ajaw 13 Sak. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

At this time of the year, we remember the Ancestors in the great tradition of Día de los Muertos, which extends back to the time of the Ancient Ancestors themselves. We remember our collective work, and the very name of our organization, MAM, which also means ‘Ancestor’. In this month, full of jack-o-lanterns and spirits, remember that the very first story of a pumpkin-headed man is to be found in the K’iche’ Maya story of the Popol Vuh, when a carved pumpkin replaces the head of the Hero Twin, Hunahpu, as his own head becomes the ball in the game he plays with his brother against the Lords of Death in the underworld of Xibalbá. With the help of a rabbit, who distracts their adversaries by pretending to be the ball, Hunahpu retrieves his original head and then uses the pumpkin as the ball, which spreads its seeds far and wide as soon as it is kicked. This is an origin story not only for the first jack-o-lantern, but for the pumpkin itself, which comes to us from thousands of years of domestication by the Mesoamericans.  We owe much to the rich traditions of the Maya and the peoples of Mesoamerica.

This month, we are honored to publish a report from Hermelinda Gómez López, a first-time recipient of one of our mini-grants from Las Margaritas, Chiapas in Mexico. After participating in a pre-Congreso event last year in Chiapas, Maestra Gómez López has decided to share what she has learned with Tojol-ab’al Maya students in her community in order to help teach and preserve the rich culture of their ancestors.

Best wishes to you and your family during this season of remembrance and gratitude, and may the ancestors never be forgotten.


Michael J. Grofe, President

Teams formed syllabic words with the help of the syllabary

Strengthening Knowledge about Ojer Maya’ Tz’iib’: the Revitalization of the Language and the Maya Culture of Our Ancestors

Through this medium I am pleased to present my report of activities of the workshop of Maya Epigraphy or Ancient Mayan Writing, carried out on April 26 and 27 of the present year in the town of Rafael Ramírez, in the municipality of Las Margaritas, Chiapas, thanks to the mini-grant funds granted by Mayas for Ancient Mayan foundation.

Once we clarified the change of headquarters, the Maya epigraphy workshop was carried out on April 26 and 27 without any setbacks, managing to train 35 students speaking the Mayan language Tojol-ab’al in the College of Bachilleres of Chiapas (COBACH) 290 from the town of Rafael Ramírez, municipality of Las Margaritas, Chiapas, Mexico.

Start of the Maya Epigraphy Workshop

On April 26 I arrrivd in the town of Rafael Ramírez to carry out the workshop. I went with Juan Alberto Toledo Herrera, Assistant Director , who gave me the classroom that they have equipped as a computer center because it is one of the largest spaces they have, and he also lent me the projector to facilitate the workshop. Once the place was set up, the workshop began welcoming the participants, and later with the support of the slides, we announced the purpose of the workshop as “Strengthening the knowledge about Ancient Maya Writing (Ojer Maya’ Tz’iib’), the revitalization of the language and the Mayan culture of our ancestors.” Also, I gave a brief introduction about the importance of the writing of the Ojeer Maya’ Tz’iib’ as a heritage of our grandfathers and grandmothers. I povided a small description of the Tz’iib’, that in Tojol-ab’al is ts’ijb’anel by the Aj Aj’iib’ (Ts’ijb’anum or ‘Scribe’), with the support of images such as stelae, codices, vessels and with images where the Aj Tz’iib’ appears painting or writing on some surface. In the same way, they were given a small introduction about the Tojol-ab’al literacy and Maya epigraphy, making a small comparison of the writing of our ancestors with the way of writing today. Finally, the aim was to raise awareness among young people of being proud of their roots and of appreciating the ancestral knowledge that exists in their community.

Individual advice on the use of the syllabary

On the 27th there was a review of the form of writing of our ancestors, and the use of the Maya syllabary was explained, along with its pronunciation, writing and the structure of words, the signs they represent, the formation of words in syllables and the numbering from 1 to 20. Subsequently, the young people did exercises to put into practice the knowledge they acquired on the subject, which they were happy and excited to do, as it was the first time they were given this type of workshop.

Doing exercises as a team

Finally, it should be noted that for both the young people and myself, the workshop was very satisfying as it helps to reinforce knowledge and cultural values. I thank our brothers from Guatemala for their teachings and for keeping in mind one of the most precious treasures we have as indigenous peoples, which is our language. Through it, we can know and transmit our roots and we can strengthen it by reading and writing the Tz’iib’ system.

I was able to carry out this workshop successfully, thanks to the manual “Introduction to the reading and writing of the Tz’iib system” offered at the Maya Epigraphy Pre-Congreso “Introduction to the operation and use of the Ojeer Maya’ Tz’iib’,” which took place on November 21st, 22nd and 23rd, 2017 in the city of Comitan de Domínguez, Chiapas, organized by the Documentation Center of the Tojol-ab’al Language (CDIT) through the teacher K’anal Ajpub, María Betha Sántiz Pèrez, and the Intercultural University of Chiapas (UNICH) in coordination with the Fundación Proyecto Lingüístico Francisco Marroquín (PLFM), the Rafael Landivar University of Guatemala, and Mayas for Ancient Mayan (MAM).


Hermelinda Gómez López
Tojol-ab’al Maya speaker

Church in the town of Rafael Ramírez

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