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

2 Ajaw 13 K’ayab (February 28, 2019): A New Generation of Aj Tz’iib’ob’: Congratulations to our new mini-grant recipients!

2 Ajaw 13 K’ayab. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

We are happy to report the nineteen recipients of this year’s Mini-grants! We have some new grantees this year, along with some excellent grantees who have been awarded mini-grants in the past. Both the Pre-Congresos and last year’s Congreso have clearly generated a great deal of new interest in Chiapas and Western Guatemala, and it is wonderful to see the energy and momentum expanding to these areas! Together with the Maya Exploration Center, I will be facilitating another workshop in Belize this summer, and we look forward to working together once again.

We are very proud to have been able to award so many mini-grants to the following twentyone Maya colleages, speaking ten different languages in the Guatemala, Belize, Yucatan, and Chiapas:

Continue reading

1 Ajaw 13 Muwan (January 19, 2019): Juan Jesús Méndez Intzín: Maya Archaeologist

1 Ajaw 13 Muwan. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

On this most auspicious day, 1 Ajaw, the namesake of the Hero Twin in the Popol Vuh, we welcome the Gregorian New Year, and we look forward to the 5th International Congreso on Ancient Maya Writing to take place in 2020. Working with Omar Chan of Quintana Roo and the Congreso planning committee, we have proposed a tentative date for the next Congreso to take place on this same Tzolk’in day 1 Ajaw, on June 22nd, 2020. This is just two cycles of 260 days in the future, which was a known cycle that Maya astronomers used to predict eclipses. Quite remarkably, there will be a total lunar eclipse tomorrow night, on January 20th, visible in the Maya area and in North America, and there will be a total solar eclipse on the summer solstice in 2020, just one day prior to the proposed Congreso date—though this solar eclipse will only be visible on the other side of the Earth—so we are safe!

Following our announcement that we have funding available for our next round of mini-grants, we now have received twelve applications and we continue to receive more. We will fund as many as our budget allows, and I will announce the recipients in our next blog.

This month, we take a look at a report from last year, but I want to make sure that we do not neglect to publish it. Juan Jesús Méndez Intzín, or Xun as I know him, is an extraordinary person, and one of the advanced students who regularly attends the Congresos. He is a native speaker of Tseltal from Chiapas, and one of a new generation of Maya people who is also an archaeologist, working towards his graduate degree in archaeology. Juan organized and taught an extensive introductory course on Maya writing for Maya students at the Colegio de Bachilleres de Campeche (COBACAM) in Xpujil, Campeche last April, including a visit to the site of  Becan. This area, surrounding the large ancient site of Calakmul, has been one of the most heavily looted regions in the Mundo Maya, and part of Juan’s interest is to help prevent further looting through education, helping Maya people appreciate their rich heritage.

Juan’s groundbreaking work has been made possible by the generous contributions of donors like you. We are eternally grateful for your help, and for the important work Juan is doing, and we wish him well in his future goals. May there be many more native Maya archaeologists that follow in his footsteps.

Wakolowal ta a pisilik,

Michael J. Grofe, President

Recognition of the cultural and epigraphic development of Becán 

Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphic Writing in Xpujil, Calakmul
Juan Jesús Méndez Intzín

This report is the result of the activities carried out as part of the course-workshop called “Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphic Writing” in the facilities of the Colegio de Bachilleres de Campeche (COBACAM), campus # 14 with headquarters in the municipality of Xpujil, Calakmul, Campeche (Mexico) in April 24-26 of 2018. This was organized for community members with no knowledge about the subject. Continue reading