9 Ajaw 8 Mak (December 5, 2019): Celebrating International Mother Language Day in Colonia San Camilo de Kanasín, Yucatán

9 Ajaw 8 Mak: Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

In this holiday season, we give thanks for many things, not the least of which are the many good people we have had the privilege and honor to work with as they do the earnest and heartfelt work of reconstructing their understanding of the knowledge and writing of their ancestors. Today, we reach the day 9 Ajaw, which has become a very important day in the organization of all of the previous four Congresos. In keeping with this tradition, the Congreso Organization Team has decided that the Fifth International Congreso on Ojer Maya Tz’ib’ will conclude on this same day, 9 Ajaw, which will take place precisely 260 days from now, from August 18-21, 2020, in Comitán, Chiapas, Mexico. The tentative theme of this next Congreso will be “Writing and Texts on Maya Vases.” We are very excited to help the organizers in their efforts to make this event possible, and we look forward to next year’s fundraising season and the ongoing support of our many friends and generous donors.

Personally, I would also like to give thanks for the good people who help to make this blog possible, despite the many other obligations and endeavors with which we are all engaged. Specifically, I would like to thank Meghan Rubenstein as our Webmaster, Jorge Pérez de Lara as our artist and epigrapher, and the fantastic organization of our Secretary, Lynda Manning Schwartz. I would also like to thank Elaine Schele and Sue Glenn of the MAM Executive Committee for their patience, support, and understanding. I am grateful for all of their dedication and hard work on behalf of our Maya colleagues.

This month, we hear from Milner Pacab Rolando Alcocer who writes to us from the Yucatán, where he carried out a series of introductory hieroglyphic workshops for the children and teachers of Colonia San Camilo de Kanasín during the observance of the International Mother Language Day in February and March of this past year. I think you will all agree that the colorful photographs and drawings are quite wonderful, and a reminder of the important work our Maya colleagues are doing.

Thank you all for your ongoing support, and have a wonderful holiday season, and a hopeful and peaceful New Year.

Yum Bo’otik,
Michael Grofe, President
MAM

Mérida, Yucatán, May 20, 2019
Report from Kanasín
Milner Pacab Rolando Alcocer

I present here the report on the Mayan hieroglyphic writing workshop carried out at the “Felipa Poot” Elementary School, located in the San Camilo neighborhood of Kanasín, Yucatán. Twenty students in grades three to six, as well as 12 teachers who work in the same school, participated. We presented this workshop while International Mother Language Day (February 21) was being celebrated, which in the state of Yucatán is commemorated by activities related to Maya language and culture between February 21 and April 21.

The main purpose of the workshop was to promote knowledge of the basic concepts of the glyphic writing system for students and teachers. Two work sessions took place at the school, one on February 27 and the second on March 13, 2019.

Session 1 (February 27, 2019):

This first session began by explaining the objectives of the workshop to participants. A video introduced them to the concept of hieroglyphic writing, identifying some glyphs inherited from our ancestors as evidence of the use of this writing system as well as the way in which their reading, or interpretation, was deciphered.

As a group, participants also met to discuss Harri Kettunen’s syllabary, a document that contains the glyphs that represent the different syllables that can be used to implement this form of writing. They were then introduced to the specific rules for glyphic hyphenation, in correspondence with the glyph syllabary, using techniques for the construction of glyph blocks to transcribe words.

Examples of hyphenation were presented and doubts and questions were answered. Then, the students were asked to divide their names into syllables and begin to design corresponding glyphs blocks to represent them. Teachers were asked to form teams and propose ways to write the name of the school using glyphs. During this activity, questions were answered when they arose about the use of the syllabary and ways to improve their work were offered.

Finally, students were asked to transcribe their glyphs artistically on opaline paper and cardboard and present their work to the group. Teachers in turn presented their proposals for glyphs to represent the name of the school. One design, which was considered aesthetically pleasing, was collectively selected. It was agreed that at the next meeting the school glyph design would be transcribed onto a 2 m x 1 m (6.6 ft x 3.3 ft) cloth and presented at the festival of mother languages that the school would hold in March.

Session 2 (March 13, 2019):

The session began with a reminder of the rules of the syllabary and some exercises on the board that reviewed the hyphenation of proper and common names, the ways in which you can build blocks of glyphs, and the name given to each glyph, depending on placement of the elements within the glyph block.

The students presented the glyphs with their names, and then were asked to complete their artistic designs on opaline paper for presentation at the festival of mother languages. Teachers, meanwhile, began designing the cloth sign showing the name of the school they chose as the best in the previous session, collectively drawing lines and applying color to make it more attractive.

At the end of the session, participants presented their work and provided feedback on the results. They were also reminded to safeguard their products so they could be presented to the community at the correct time.

Festival (March 15, 2019):

As agreed, on this date the school’s festival of mother languages was held with the participation of parents, students, and community members, during which there were many diverse activities related to Maya language and culture. In particular, there was the exhibition of the glyphic work that students and teachers completed in the workshop. They explained their significance to the audience and made them see the importance of their children knowing and appreciating this writing system, our grandparents’ legacy.

Given the enthusiasm observed among teachers, students, and parents, we intend to continue the hieroglyphic writing project during the school year, requesting support from the Ministry of Education for artistically writing glyphs representing the name of this school on its walls.

I take this occasion to reiterate my gratitude to MAM for its support in the realization of this workshop.

Sincerely,
Milner Pacab Rolando Alcocer

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