8 Ajaw 8 Sak (October 26, 2019): Uspantek Students Discover Maya Writing and the Ch’olq’iij Calendar

8 Ajaw 8 Sak. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

“Beloved Grandmothers-Grandfathers Forgive Me… I will try to understand what you said”

Uspantek Students Discover Maya Writing and the Ch’olq’iij Calendar

As we once again approach the season of Día de los Muertos, we hear from Pedro Alejandro Vasquez Tay about his work this past July with Uspantek students from Pinal de Uspantán in Quiche, Guatemala. He begins his report with a heartfelt plea by asking forgiveness from his ancestors for not being able to read and write as they did, with hope that he and his students will one day be able to understand their words.

This month brings good news from the Congreso Planning Team, who are now tentatively proposing to hold the Fifth International Congreso in August of 2020, with the goal of more easily reaching out to participants from as many different Mayan language communities as possible, with many of them concentrated in the highlands of Chiapas and Western Guatemala.

There has been a coordinated effort to put together an international Congreso Planning Team by recruiting one man and one women to represent each of the five major Maya regions: Chiapas, Belize, Western Guatemala, Eastern Guatemala, and the Yucatan. We are very encouraged to hear of these collaborative developments, and we look forward to reporting more of the details as soon as the plans are solidified. The planning of the Congresos is now largely in the hands of our Maya colleagues, as it should be, and we at MAM are happy to help serve in whatever capacity we are needed.

As always, thank you for all of your ongoing support, and helping our Maya friends reconnect to the voices of their ancestors.

Sib’alaj Maltyox,
Michael Grofe, President

A playful activity: “We rotate like the Maya calendar does”, a dynamic application to understand the Cholq’iij and its twenty days, and to identify them in logograms.

“First, Beloved Grandmothers-Grandfathers, forgive me; I ask for a license and permission, because I no longer write as you wrote. I will try to understand what you said.”  ~P .Alejandro Vásquez Tay 

Workshop Report

General information

Workshop name: Maya epigraphy workshop called “Ojr Mayb’ Tz’iib’ li Cholq’iij rechaq ajmayb’ ” (Maya Ancient Scripture and interpretation of the Cholq’iij Calendar)

Facilitator: Pedro Alejandro Vásquez Tay (Uspanteko Maya-K’iché)

Objective: Raise awareness among young Maya about the importance of recognizing the writing of grandparents and the described messages that are currently being discovered. 

Date: July 15, 2019 

Beneficiaries: 29 young people (students) from the Basic Cooperative Institute, Pinal municipality of Uspantán, Quiché, Guatemala

Description of the activities

  • Welcome activity with the intervention of the Facilitator
  • An invocation before the day, according to the Maya calendar
  • The objective of the workshop is described: To reach young people enthusiastic and eager to learn a different language system
  • The syllabary is shared
  • Students perform simple exercises, such as reading a logogram, based on 5 key questions, to understand Maya epigraphy and the Maya hieroglyphic system
  • Through brainstorming and using their workshop achievements, students present their work, inscribing their names in hieroglyphs on bond sheets, where they show their skill in drawing and painting
  • Finally, a theme develops, and the Facilitator answers many questions from students

Results: There is a theme of Maya writing in the Maya calendar. This theme creates many questions from students, such as: What is the Maya calendar? Through this workshop, the rotation of the Maya and the Gregorian calendars is shown, facilitating understanding of the applications of the calendars and the rotation of this day within them. Students report that they knew about the Maya but have not used their writing system before. They say that it motivates the development of the next workshop.


  • Students love to learn about new topics, especially when talking about the ancient Maya people, in order to understand the current situation.
  • Hieroglyphic writing has always been a mystery to the farthest corners of our Guatemalan territory and in our municipality, mainly in the knowledge of our brothers.
  • Awareness is part of the interests of each learner; above all, it is a matter of digging into the roots of our ancestors.


  • The time factor given by the administrative center was short.
  • To a lesser extent, there was a lack of understanding of these issues, especially regarding the existence of an ancient system; More time is required to better explain things.
  • To a certain extent, there was a lack of coordination by the administrative staff, given the number of participants in this workshop.

Activities to Improve the Workshop

  • Development of a new workshop on the history of ancient writing and current discoveries.
  • Discovering new methods of deciphering and using the system.
  • Willingness to learn and be interested in this system used by our grandfathers and grandmothers.
  • Research on learning the Ojr Mayb’ Tz’iib’ and its usefulness in scientific studies today.

Students analyze Stela 3, Piedras Negras. Drawing by David Stuart.

Nineth and Edward look for numbers, Maya glyphs on Stela 3, Piedras Negras.

Students present their work in the Ojr Mayb’ Tz’iib’ system and have discovered important dates on Stela 3, Piedras Negras.

Twenty-nine students finished all five hours of the workshop and were awarded accreditation for their work well done.


This is thanks for the support with this ancient writing workshop, connecting with our roots and continuing to communicate with our grandparents and grandmothers. Thanks to Berta Leticia Ajcot Us and Salvador Pinula Ical, enthusiasts, colleagues, and partners in learning the Ojr Mayb’ Tz’iib’; and to the Uspantek Language Community; and especially thanks to Mayas for Ancient Mayan (MAM) for the financing of the materials used in this workshop.

Taq K’omo jumul, Kamul, oxmul!
Maltyox jumul, Kamul, oxmul!
Thank one, two and three times!


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