12 Ajaw 3 Pop (April 3, 2020): Postponement of the Fifth Congreso

12 Ajaw 3 Pop: Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

Maria Francisca Elias at Yaxha’ during the 3rd International Congreso in 2016.

Given the current circumstances surrounding the global Coronavirus pandemic, it is with a heavy heart that I must announce the postponement of the Fifth International Congreso on Ancient Maya Writing— Ojer Maya’ Tz’ib’—which was scheduled for August 18-21 of this year. The Congreso Planning Committee has agreed to postpone the event until August of 2021, and we at MAM have decided that, in order to protect our Maya colleagues and communities, we will also be canceling this years mini-grant program.

Here is the notification posted by the Congreso Organizing Team:

In solidarity with humanity, which is suffering the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, we informed our Maya sisters and brothers from different towns in Mesoamerica, who have participated in our workshops and conferences, that the Fifth International Congreso on Ojer Maya’ Tz’ib’ in 2020 has been suspended. In addition, the mini-grant workshops in Maya communities have been canceled.

Further, we report that the date of the event will be transferred to be carried out in the same place and date in 2021.

Deep thanks to our supporters for the development of these Congresos, workshops, and conferences, as well as the financing of mini-grants:

Mayas for Ancient Mayan —MAM—and their collaborators. 

Fundación Proyecto Ligüistico, Francisco Marroquin – PLFM and the International Congreso Organizing Team.

To all of you—our extended family of Maya friends, our supporters and contributors, our families and loved ones—and to all humanity, we wish you good health and strength in this time. Together we will re-emerge from this profound moment in history stronger and ever more resolved and committed to our cause. To all of those who have donated to our cause for the upcoming Congreso and mini-grants, we will hold your donations in trust for the next year, or as soon as the timeline will allow us to safely send out an announcement for our next mini-grant program. We hope we will continue to have your support and your dedication, especially as we emerge from this crisis and move into next year with a resounding affirmation to continue our work of supporting our Maya colleagues in their efforts to reconnect to their own history.

Yum B’o’otik and
Sib’alaj Maltiyoox

Michael Grofe, President


11 Ajaw 8 K’ayab (February 23, 2020): Lunas Yaxche: The Youth of Huixtán Recover the Maya Script

11 Ajaw 8 K’ayab: Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

As the second month of 2020 already comes to a close, we are reminded of the upcoming Congreso, now just six months away in Comitán, Chiapas. The proposed theme this year will be Maya Vases, and we are excited to be working with the Congreso Planning Committee to help make this an unforgettable event.

We would like to welcome the new Director of the Proyecto Lingüístico Francisco Marroquín (PLFM) Foundation, Juana Celilia Ixch’umiil García Méndez, and we would similarly like to thank Juan Rodrigo Guarchaj Itzep for his years of service as the previous Director. We have enjoyed working together with the PLFM, and we look forward to working with them and the Congreso Planning Committee in the future.

In honoring the upcoming Congreso in Chiapas, this month, we hear from the Lunas Yaxche Team, comprised of three inspiring teachers from Huixtán, Chiapas: Silvia Maribel Ts’it Ts’eme, Norma Erika Ch’ijk’ Mulex, and Francisca Bautista Gómez. Working with Tseltal and Tsotsil speakers from multiple communities, this team taught the first introductory hieroglyphic workshop in Huixtán, and we look forward to seeing additional workshops here in the future as Maya people from several countries converge in Chiapas for this year’s Congreso.

As always, thank you for your continued support for the work we are doing on behalf of our Maya colleagues.

Oj Toj Kolaval,
Michael Grofe, President

Introductory workshop to Maya syllabary
Huixtán, Chiapas, Mexico

Team: Lunas Yaxche
Silvia Maribel Ts’it Ts’eme
Norma Erika Ch’ijk’ Mulex
Francisca Bautista Gómez

College of Science and Technology Studies (CECyT), Campus 27
Huixtán, Chiapas, Mexico

May 14, 2019

Number of participants
Introductory level: 22 young participants

Mayan languages ​​represented
Tsotsil, Tseltal, Spanish


The first introductory workshop with the Maya syllabary was held with the collaboration of the Centro de Estudios Científicos y Tecnológicos (CECyT) 27, the state high school in Huixtán; MAM (Mayas for Ancient Mayan); the continued support of Michael Grofe; and the Lunas Yaxche Group. Both institutions and advisers showed the best readiness for this activity.

For the first time in the municipality an introductory workshop with the Maya syllabary was held, with 22 young people from 15 to 17 years old, originating from different communities: San Sebastián, San Andrés, Chempil, and San Pedro la Tejeria, among others. This workshop involved social contexts lived by Mayan descendants, including the discrimination and racism that has been experienced. However, the youth group showed openness to learning ancient writing. Continue reading

10 Ajaw 8 Muwan (January 14, 2020): Seeking Balance in Quetzaltenango

10 Ajaw 8 Muwaan: Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

Seeking Balance in Quetzaltenango: Jun B’atz’ and Jun Chowen and the Art of Writing

Happy New Year! As we enter this new decade, as reckoned by the Gregorian Calendar, we must remember that this system of reckoning time is but one among many other systems, and that the sophisticated calendrical system of the Ancient Maya was used for far longer than that which we use today. While it was nearly lost, thousands of Maya people speaking many different Mayan languages are now relearning how their ancestors reckoned time and recorded their histories using their unique writing system. We are very excited to ring in this new and hopeful decade by supporting the upcoming Fifth International Congreso on Ancient Maya Writing this August in Comitán, Chiapas!

This month, we hear from our close friend, Ajpub’ Pablo García Ixmatá, one of the integral members of the Congreso Organizational Team. Last September, working together with the Asociación Qajb’al Q’ij and Rafael Landivár University, Ajpub’ organized a workshop in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala for 35 men and women from no less than eight different Mayan language communities in Mexico and Guatemala—all of them leaders in their respective communities.

In his workshop, Ajpub’ explored the meaning of Jun B’atz’ and Jun Chowen, the monkey brothers from the Popol Vuh, and how they represent the uniquely Maya relationship between writing and art, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a balance between these things in the development of human character.

We look forward to working with Ajpub’ and the Congreso Organizational Team in the coming months as we begin our fundraising efforts for this historic event, as well as to continue our program of Mini-grants for the New Year.

As always, thank you for your ongoing support, and we hope that you all have a prosperous and peaceful New Year.

Sib’alaj Maltiyoox,

Michael Grofe, President

Ojeer Maya’ Tz’ijb’
Introduction to the writing and system of the Ojeer Maya’ Tz’ijb’
Municipality of La Esperanza, Quetzaltenango
September 18 and 19, 2019

Workshop facilitator: Ajpub’ Pablo García


For two days an International Workshop of Introduction to the Maya writing system, Ojeer Maya’ Tz’iib’, was held with a group of Maya leaders, men and women who speak the following languages: Tsoltsil, Tseltal, and Mam from Chiapas, Mexico, and Mam, Awakateko, Chuj, Q’anjob’al, Kaqchikel, and K’iche’ of Guatemala. This activity was carried out in coordination with the Qajb’al Q’ij Association for Intercultural Education and Development, and Rafael Landívar University.

The main objective of the group: Rescue the ancestral knowledge and practices from the Ojeer Maya’ Tz’ijb’ and the 260-day Calendar to help people who seek peace and the creation of spaces to discern and develop comprehensive training in Maya villages.

Within the same dynamics of the workshop, the relationship between Jun B’atz’ and Jun Chowen was discussed in depth with the art of writing, drawing, carving, painting and singing and their relationship with the persona to seek balance.

During the two days 35 people participated, of the 40 guests invited. Continue reading

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

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. Continue reading

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 Continue reading

7 Ajaw 8 Ch’en (September 16, 2019): Such Beautiful Words: Hieroglyphic Poetry in Chiapas and the work of Martín Gómez Ramírez

7 Ajaw 8 Ch’en. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

Hieroglyphic Poetry in Tzeltal

Such Beautiful Words: Hieroglyphic Poetry in Chiapas and the work of Martín Gómez Ramírez

This month, we hear from our longtime friend Martín Gómez Ramírez, who has been writing beautiful hieroglyphic poetry in Tzeltal for many years. Here, Martín reports back from a conference that he facilitated this past April on the origin and meaning of the name Oxchuc for the Intercultural University (UNICH) in Oxchuc, Chiapas and the Oxchuc House of Culture, in which Martín presented a dedicatory hieroglyphic plaque which he had written and sculpted in Tzeltal.

Martín then brought his understanding of hieroglyphic writing, poetry, and symbolism to an introductory workshop in San Cristobal de Las Casas, in which Tzeltal students produced and presented magnificent works in the ancient script of their ancestors.

This ongoing and important work is supported by your generous donations, and it helps young Maya people learn from their elders, create new and beautiful works of art and poetry, and proudly honor the traditions of their ancient ancestors.

Wakolowal ta a pisilik,
Michael J. Grofe, President



PLACE: Oxchuc, Chiapas, Intercultural University (UNICH) and Casa de Cultura de Oxchuc
DATE: April 4, 2019
SPEAKER: Martín Gómez Ramírez
TOPIC: The true meaning of “Oxchujk”
LANGUAGE ASSISTANTS: Tzeltal University students

I want to thank you for this invitation to allow me, for my dear people of Oxchuc, to share with you how this coming conference will be conducted, in particular by students from the Intercultural University of Chiapas, Oxchuc, in collaboration with the Casa de Cultura de Oxchuc.

Oxchuc is a hierarchy of villages organized into municipal offices, with a mix of traditional ceremonies and the jtuuneletik festivals, the religious rituals after colonization. After almost 33 years, since 1986, I have been in communities across the Oxchuc territory, for documentation and in attendance at parties; water wells; celebrations, such as molino de Xel in Santa Cruz, Chiapas; processions; and I participated in ritual ceremonies in holy places, such as at Cerro Muk’ul Ajaw, sacred to my ancestors.

First, I wish to correct the meaning of the word “Oxchujk,” from the current usage given by previous researchers as “three knots.” During international meetings of Maya epigraphy, in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Love, the true meaning of “Oxchujk” has been found in the Paris Codex on page 9, to be translated as “three captives.”

The true meaning of Oxchujk: “Three captured”

Continue reading

6 Ajaw 8 Yaxk’in (August 7, 2019): Stz’ib’al Ab’xub’al Popti’: A Popti’ Maya Alphabet

6 Ajaw 8 Yaxk’in. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

Stz’ib’al Ab’xub’al Popti’: A Popti’ Maya Alphabet
The Ancient Maya Script Returns to Jacaltenango

This month, we hear back from the highlands of the Cuchumatanes in Guatemala, where Edy Benjamin López Castillo conducted an introductory workshop on Ancient Maya Writing for Popti’ speakers in Jacaltenango this past May. This is one of the first workshops of its kind for Popti’ speakers, and we are very gratful to learn that it was inspired in large part by last year’s Congreso in Huehuetenango, in which Edy López was an active participant. Following instruction in the syllabary, the group created a Popti’ alphabet, using illustrations and Popti’ words for each letter.

Workshops like this one are made possible by the generous donations of our supporters like you, and through this work, the ancient script has returned to live again in many more communities and language groups than ever before. We applaud the insipiring work being carried out Edy López and our other Maya colleagues and teachers, and we look forward to supporting more workshops like this in the future.

Michael Grofe, President

Report on the Maya Hieroglyphic Writing Workshop

Place: Jacaltenango, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
Headquarters: Popti’-ALMG- Linguistic Community
Date: May 16, 2019.
Responsible: Edy Benjamín López Castillo
Beneficiary ethnicity: Maya Popti’.

Location: The Popti’ Maya ethnic group is located in the northwest of the department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, also known as the Huista or Wuxhtaj (Brother) Region. It is made up of seven municipalities: Jacaltenango, Concepción Huista, Petatán, Unión Cantinil, San Antonio Huista, Santa Ana Huista and Nentón.

The workshop was conducted over a period of 8 hours, focusing on the Introduction to Reading and Writing in the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ system with the participation of a group of middle level students, Jacaltenango diversified training cycle, university students, and professionals from the Popti’ Linguistic Community of the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala.Originally, the workshop was organizedfor 25 people. However, for reasons unrelated to the activity, only 20 participated.

Continue reading

5 Ajaw 8 Sek (June 28, 2019): Ancient Murals and New Writing: Inspiring the Curiosity of the Children of Santa María Cauqué

5 Ajaw 8 Sek. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

Ancient Murals and New Writing: Inspiring the Curiosity of the Children of Santa María Cauqué

This month, we hear back from Ana Lucía Perez Sebaquijay and Tepeu Poz Salanic, who held an introductory workshop this past April in the Kaqchikel village of Santa María Cauqué in Sacatepequez, Guatemala. Their enthusiastic students got to explore the San Bartolo Murals, while also playing hieroglyphic games, and extensively studying the writing system. Such wonderful photos!

One year ago, we were just about to begin the Fourth International Congreso on Ojer Maya’ Tz’iib in Huhuetenango, and I fondly think back to all that we accomplished there, and all that has been accomplished since then, with the help of all of our generous supporters.

I just recently returned from Belize, where I was able to help co-facilitate an introductory hieroglyphic workshop at the George Price Center in Belmopan with the help of Ernesto Saqui and Melissa Chiac. This was largely made possible by a generous donation from Dr. Ed Barnhart of the Maya Exploration Center, with thanks to Ellen Barclay and Phil Krejcarek and their students from Carroll University in Wisconsin, who participated in and supported the event. We were very excited to see many new faces, including several Maya participants who are studying to be archaeologists in Belize.

We received many applications this past Winter and Spring, and we funded as many as possible. We encourage all of those who did not receive funding to re-apply when we have our next call for applications. Fortunately, we were able to fund three additional mini-grants at the end of our Spring funding season:

Clinton Cho, Inno’on La oh
Belmopan, Belize: Mopan, Q’eqchi’, Yucatec.

Ajpub’ Pablo García Ixmatá
Frontier between Chiapas and Guatemala: Various language groups.

Juan Rodrigo Guarchaj Tzep
San Juan Ostuncalco, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala: Mam

We are very grateful to all of our generous supporters for making this ongoing work possible.

Ütz Matiox,

Michael Grofe, President

Introductory Workshop for boys and girls from the Santa María Cauqué Village: 7 K’at, 12 Pop

This workshop was held in the facilities of the Public School of the community and was facilitated by Tepeu Poz Salanic, K’iche’ Maya, and Ana Lucía Perez Sebaquijay, Kaqchikel Maya. We started at 8:30, with games to get to know each other. They introduced themselves and practiced Kaqchikel by saying their names. We gave a brief explanation about the decipherment, and the children were very interested and questioned why the Maya writing stopped being used. We all shared our opinions and the importance of recovering this knowledge. Continue reading

4 Ajaw 8 Sip (May 19, 2019): To Know Where We Are From: The Writing of the Ancestors reaches Zinacantán

4 Ajaw 8 Sip. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

To Know Where We Are From: The Writing of the Ancestors reaches Zinacantán

Today, as the days are growing longer, we celebrate the special day 4 Ajaw, which commemorates the anniversary of the beginning of the Long Count Era on 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u in 3114 BC—and again on 4 Ajaw 3 K’ank’in in 2012. May the world be made anew once again. This month, we hear from Ana Guadalupe de la Torre, a first-time recipient of a MAM mini-grant from Zinacantán, Chiapas, Mexico. Ana originally proposed to work with fifteen young Tzotzil Maya from Zinacantán, but interest in the workshop was so great that the numbers quickly swelled to forty students! We are very inspired and encouraged by the work Ana and her colleague Susana Patricia López Díaz are doing in teaching their curriculum in Tzotzil, and we are so happy to support her and her community learn the script of their ancestors for the first time. Thank you to all of our supporters for making this work possible.

Bats’i kolavalik,

Michael Grofe, President

Introductory Workshop to the Reading and Writing of Maya Hieroglyphs in Zinacantán, Chiapas

Students deciphering the text on Stela 12 from Yaxchilán.

Zinacantán is located in the Highlands of Chiapas, and it is a town inhabited by women and men who speak the Tzotzil language. This place is called Sots’leb, which means ‘Place of Bats’. Here we still conserve ancestral traditions, respect for the sacred hills, the planting of the sacred corn, the main food for all of us, ceremonies in gratitude for water, carrying and elaborating traditional costumes on the back-strap loom. All of this cultural richness, and the knowledge that we have inherited from our Maya grandfathers and grandmothers—in every generation it is lost, weakening, losing the essence and meaning of each bit of knowledge. In this town most people speak Tzotzil, although now only the elderly speak Tzotzil with the essence and meaning of each word they communicate. Young people today speak a mixture of Tzotzil with Spanish, because of the influence of the mass media, the educational system that is completely in Spanish, and that there are no materials or subjects in the Tzotzil language. Also, because there are parents who no longer communicate with their children in Tzotzil, a higher percentage of the entire population can not write In the Tzotzil language, so the interest in speaking and writing in our language is increasingly lost. Continue reading

3 Ajaw 8 Pop (April 9, 2019): The Place of Reeds: Writing the Maya Tz’iib’ with Traditional Cane Brushes

3 Ajaw 8 Pop. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

This month, we hear back from Aj Xol Ch’ok who gives us the first report from the 2019 mini-grant recipients. Aj Xol Ch’ok (a.k.a. Hector Rolando Xol Ch’ok) is an integral member of the PLFM team who has worked very closely with MAM for many years. He is an Aj Tz’iib’ in every sense of the word, with an advanced knowledge of the Ojer Maya’ Tz’iib’, and he has revived the traditional art of creating brushes from cane, known as aj, along with natural pigments as a way for K’iche’ Maya students to revitalize and learn to read and write in the writing system of their ancient ancestors—indeed, the same very ancestors who gave us the Popol Vuh. While it may take some practice and hard work, cane is a widely available resource that can be easily implemented for this purpose in other Maya communities.

We look forward to hearing more about this exciting new development in the future!

As always, thank you for your continued support on behalf of all of our Maya colleagues.

Maltiox Chech Alak,

Michael Grofe, President

Introduction to Reading and Writing in the Tz’iib’ System

Malacatancito, Huehuetango
March 5-6, 2019

Group of K’iche’ Maya boys, girls and teachers, and the facilitator of the workshop (Photo: Aj Ch’ok. 2019).


The First Workshop on the Introduction to Reading and Writing in the Maya Tz’iib’ system was held over the course of two days with a group of scholarship students and teachers of the K’amalb’e Association, of Malacatancito, Huehuetenango. K’amalb’e is a Project that works thanks to the contribution of institutions and people at national and international levels and whose contribution is to offer scholarships (basic and diversified level) to K’iche ‘Mayan children and youth in the area of Malacatancito. One of the objectives of this project is the strengthening of the cultural identity of the K’iche’ people. Unfortunately, the communities of this town know very little or nothing about their origins, history, knowledge, etc. It is in this context that the realization of this first workshop has taken shape. Continue reading