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”

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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.

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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:

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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

13 Ajaw 13 Mak (December 10, 2018): The Maya Script Lives Again

13 Ajaw 13 Mak. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

All of us at MAM wish you and your families a wonderful holiday, and we send our deepest thanks to all of our supporters for making this an unforgettable year, with the successful Congreso in Huehuetenango. As we move into 2019, we are once again preparing for our yearly holiday fundraiser, while also soon announcing our next call for applications for our upcoming round of mini-grants.

We look forward to another exciting year ahead as our Maya colleagues prepare for the next Congreso, to take place in Quintana Roo, Mexico in 2020, and we are always grateful for all of the support we receive to help the Maya in their efforts to revitalize their ancestral script.

This month, we hear from Daniela Esther Cano Chan, a dynamic teacher who taught an introductory workshop on Maya writing from May 18 to July 15 for twenty five Yucatec Maya students at the Colegio de Bachilleres Plantel in Teabo, Yucatan, just outside of the Pueblo of Maní.

In 1562, Maní was the site of the infamous and tragic auto de fé of Diego de Landa, who burned many Maya codices and religious statues, thereby destroying unknown amounts of Maya history, science, and literature—and almost completely erasing all knowledge of the script. Yet, what once almost vanished has now returned, and it is a profound testimony to the resilience of Maya language, culture, and people that we now see the Maya script return to the very community where this tragedy took place so many years ago. The Maya script lives again.

Yum bo’otik, Na bo’otik,

Michael J. Grofe, President

Introductory Course in Maya Epigraphy
Daniela Esther Cano Chan

This workshop was designed for young people from the southern area of Yucatan, mostly indigenous people who speak the Yucatec Maya language, from the villages of Maní, Tipikal, Teabo, Mayapan, Cantamayec and Chumayel, in order to share knowledge about the ancient writing of our Mayan grandparents and grandmothers and allow them to have an increasingly strong connection with their roots. Continue reading

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

11 Ajaw 13 Ch’en (September 21, 2018): Memorial to Pati Martínez Huchim

11 Ajaw 13 Ch’en. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

We dedicate this blog posting to our dear friend and Maya colleague, Ana Patricia Martínez Huchim affectionately known as Pati. We lost her to cancer July 27th of this year at the age of 54. Born in 1964 in city of Tizimin, Yucatan, she lived there with her extended family all her life. She had been an active member of Mayas for Ancient Mayan (MAM) since 2006 and dedicated her life to documenting and preserving the Maya language and culture. She enjoyed the ethnographic work of gathering folktales from local Maya and from Colonial and post Colonial documents, recording them and sharing them in printed publications and online. She also drew from her own personal experience as a child growing up Maya, remembering folktales told to her by her parents. We are happy to know that MAM as an organization helped her in her work by awarding mini-grants to her on several occasions, thus supplying her with resources to help her follow her dream of promoting Maya culture. With these funds she conducted Maya calendar and glyphic workshops where she taught other Mayas in the local community how to write their ancient script and calendar.

Her undergraduate degree was in the anthropological sciences, specializing in linguistics and literature. She received her Master’s Degree in ethnohistory from the Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY). Ethnographic fieldwork was one of her many skills and using these skills, she gathered folk stories of her people and shared them with the world.  Her emphasis was often on the everyday life of the women and children of Yucatan. In May of this year, Arthur Dixon published an online article about her in the journal Latin American Literature Today. The following are Pati’s words from that article:

My work is unique because my protagonists are Maya women, which has not happened often in literature in Yucatec Maya. I artistically re-elaborate the memory of Maya women who performed labors that were stigmatized by society. In my texts, Maya identity is recreated as part of the characters’ environment; it flows with agility to the readers’ eyes; in the everyday lives of the characters we find Maya traditions and religious beliefs, in a plot that draws in readers. And the meaning of the peoples’ names is intimately linked to their activities and ways of being.

For her many writings, she received several awards during her career including the Enedino Jiménez Indigenous Literature Prize in 2005 for her book U k’á jsajil u ts u ‘noj k’áax (in English: Memories of the Heart of the Mountain). Continue reading