Maya peoples

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Maya

Carlos MéridaComandante Ramona
Armando Manzanero
Jesús Tecú OsorioRigoberta Menchú Tum

Carlos Mérida, Comandante Ramona
Armando Manzanero

Jesús Tecú Osorio, Rigoberta Menchú Tum
Total population
estimated 7 million [1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Parts of modern-day countries of Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador
Languages
Mayan languages, Spanish, Kriol and English
Religion
Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic, with some Protestants), Maya religion

The Maya people constitute a diverse range of Native Americans in southern Mexico and northern Central America. The overarching term "Maya" is a collective designation to include the peoples of the region who share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term embraces many distinct populations, societies, and ethnic groups, who each have their own particular traditions, cultures, and historical identity.

Mayan population Pre-Columbia is approximately 8,000,000.[3] Today there are an estimated 7 million Maya living in this area at the start of the 21st century.[1][2] Guatemala, southern Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize, El Salvador, and western Honduras have managed to maintain substantial remnants of their ancient cultural heritage. Some are quite integrated into the majority hispanicized Mestizo cultures of the nations in which they reside, while others continue a more traditional, culturally distinct, life often speaking one of the Maya languages as a primary language.

The largest populations of contemporary Maya inhabit Guatemala, Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador, as well as large segments of population within the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Chiapas.

Yucatec Maya[edit]

A Jade mask from the state of Campeche

One of the largest group of modern Maya can be found in Mexico's Yucatán state and the neighboring states of Campeche and Quitana Roo. They commonly identify themselves simply as "Maya" with no further ethnic subdivision (unlike in the Highlands of Western Guatemala). They speak the language which anthropologists term "Yucatec Maya", but is identified by speakers and Yucatecos simply as "Maya". Among Maya speakers Spanish is commonly spoken as a second or first language. There is a significant amount of confusion as to the correct terminology to use—Maya or Mayan—and the meaning of these words with reference to contemporary or precolumbian peoples, to Mayan peoples in different parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and to languages or peoples. Linguists refer to Maya (language) as Yucatec or Yucatec Maya to disambiguate any confusion with other Mayan languages. This norm has often been misinterpreted to mean that the people are also called Yucatec Maya, but that term only refers to the language and the correct name for the people is simply Maya (not Mayans). Maya is one language in the Mayan language family. Thus, to refer to Maya as Mayans would be similar to referring to Americans as Germanics because they speak a language belonging to the Germanic language family.[4] Further, confusion of the term Maya/Mayan as ethnic label occurs because Maya women who use traditional dress autoidentify by the ethnic term mestiza and not Maya.[5] As well, persons use a strategy of ethnic identitification that Juan Castillo Cocom refers to as "ethnoexodus"—meaning that ethnic self-identification as Maya is quite variable, situational, and articulated not to processes of producing group identity, but, of escaping from discriminatory processes of sociocultural marginalization.[6][7]

The Yucatán's indigenous population was first exposed to Europeans after a party of Spanish shipwreck survivors came ashore in 1511. One of the sailors, Gonzalo Guerrero, is reported to have started a family and taken up a position of counsel among a local polity near present-day Chetumal. Later Spanish expeditions to the region were led by Córdoba in 1517, Grijalva in 1518 and Cortés in 1519. From 1528 to 1540, several attempts by Francisco Montejo to conquer the Yucatán failed. His son, Francisco de Montejo the Younger, fared almost as badly when he first took over: while desperately holding out at Chichen Itza, he lost 150 men in a single day.[8] European diseases, massive recruitment of native warriors from Campeche and Champoton, and internal hatred between the Xiu Maya and the lords of Cocom eventually turned the tide for Montejo the Younger, and consequently resulted in the fall of Chichen Itza by 1570.[8] In 1542, the western Yucatán peninsula also surrendered to him.

Historically, the population in the eastern half of the peninsula was less affected by and less integrated with Hispanic culture than the western half. Today, in the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexican States of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo) between 750,000 and 1,200,000 people speak Mayan. However, three times more than that do not speak their native language, are of Maya origins, and hold ancient Maya last names.

Chichen Itza

Matthew Restall, in his book The Maya Conquistador,[9] mentions a series of letters sent to the King of Spain in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The noble Maya families at that time signed documents to the Spanish Royal Family; surnames mentioned in those letters are Pech, Camal, Xiu, Ucan, Canul, Cocom, and Tun, among others.

A large 19th century revolt by the native Maya people of Yucatán (Mexico), known as the Caste War of Yucatán, was one of the most successful modern Native American revolts;[10] results included the temporary existence of the Maya state of Chan Santa Cruz, recognized as an independent nation by the British Empire.

Dr. Francisco Luna Kan is a Maya holding the very common surname "Kan"

Francisco Luna-Kan was elected governor of the state of Yucatán from 1976 to 1982. Luna-Kan was born in Mérida, Yucatán, and he was a Doctor of medicine, then a Professor of Medicine before his political offices, his first being overseer of the state's rural medical system. He was the first Governor of the modern Yucatán Peninsula, from a full Maya background. Currently, there are dozens of politicians including Deputies, Majors and Senators of full or mixed Maya heritage from the Yucatán Peninsula.

According to the National Institute of Geography and Informatics (Mexico's INEGI), in Yucatán State there were 1.2 million Mayan speakers in 2009, representing 59.5% of the inhabitants.[11] Due to this, the cultural section of the government of Yucatán began on-line classes for grammar and proper pronunciation of Maya.[12]

Maya People from Yucatán Peninsula living in the United States of America have been organizing Maya language lessons and Maya cooking classes since 2003 in California and other states: clubs of Yucatec Maya[13] are registered in Dallas and Irving, Texas; Salt Lake City in Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; and California, with groups in San Francisco, San Rafael, Chino, Pasadena, Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Inglewood, Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, San Fernando Valley and Whittier.[13]

Chiapas[edit]

Maya populations in Chiapas. The area officially assigned to the Lacandon Community is the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, which partly overlaps with the Tzeltal, Tojolabal and Ch'ol areas

Chiapas was for many years one of the regions of Mexico that was least touched by the reforms of the Mexican Revolution. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation, launched a rebellion against the Mexican state, Chiapas in January 1994, declared itself to be an indigenous movement and drew its strongest and earliest support from Chiapan Mayans. Today its number of supporters is relevant. (see also the EZLN and the Chiapas conflict)

Maya groups in Chiapas include the Tzotzil and Tzeltal, in the highlands of the state, the Tojolabalis concentrated in the lowlands around Las Margaritas, and the Ch'ol in the jungle. (see map)

The most traditional of Maya groups are the Lacandon, a small population avoiding contact with outsiders until the late 20th century by living in small groups in the Lacandon Jungle. These Lacandon Maya came from the Campeche/Petén area (north-east of Chiapas) and moved into the Lacandon rain-forest at the end of the 18th century.

In the course of the 20th century, and increasingly in the 1950s and 1960s, other people (mainly the Maya and subsistence peasants from the highlands), also entered into the Lacandon region; initially encouraged by the government. This immigration led to land-related conflicts and an increasing pressure on the rainforest. To halt the migration, the government decided in 1971 to declare a large part of the forest (614,000 hectares, or 6140 km2) a protected area: the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. They appointed only one small population group (the 66 Lacandon families) as tenants (thus creating the Lacandon Community), thereby displacing 2000 Tzeltal and Ch'ol families from 26 communities, and leaving non-Lacandon communities dependent on the government for granting their rights to land. In the decades that followed the government carried out numerous programs to keep the problems in the region under control, using land distribution as a political tool; as a way of ensuring loyalty from different campesino groups. This strategy of divide and rule led to great disaffection and tensions among population groups in the region.
(see also the Chiapas conflict and the Lacandon Jungle).

Belize[edit]

The Maya population in Belize is concentrated in the Cayo, Toledo and Orange Walk districts, but they are scattered throughout the country. The Maya are thought to have been in Belize and the Yucatán region since the second millennium BC; however, much of Belize's original Maya population was wiped out by disease and conflicts between tribes and with Europeans. They are divided into the Yucatec, Kekchi, and Mopan. These three Maya groups now inhabit the country: The Yucatec (who came from Yucatán, Mexico to escape the Caste War of the 1840s), the Mopan (indigenous to Belize but were forced out by the British; they returned from Guatemala to evade slavery in the 19th century), and Kek'Chi (also fled from slavery in Guatemala in the 19th century).[66] The later groups are chiefly found in the Toledo District.

Tabasco[edit]

The Mexican state of Tabasco is home to the Chontal Maya. Tabasco ( taˈβasko (help·info)), officially Free and Sovereign State of Tabasco (Spanish: Estado Libre y Soberano de Tabasco), is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 17 municipalities and its capital city is Villahermosa. It is located in the southeast of the country along the Gulf of Mexico bordering the states of Campeche, Chiapas and Veracruz, as well as the country of Guatemala. Most of the state is covered in rainforest as, unlike most other areas of Mexico, it has plentiful rainfall year round. For this reason, it is also covered in small lakes, wetlands and rivers. The state is subject to major flooding events, with the last occurring in 2007, which affected eighty percent of the state. The state is also home to La Venta, the major site of the Olmec civilization, considered to be the origin of later Mesoamerican cultures. Even though it produces significant quantities of petroleum and natural gas, poverty is still a concern. The state is also the origin of the cocoa bean, from which chocolate is made.


Guatemala[edit]

Ixil women in Nebaj, Guatemala.

In Guatemala, indigenous people of Maya descent comprise around 40% of the population.[14] The largest and most traditional Maya populations are in the western highlands in the departments of Baja Verapaz, Quiché, Totonicapán, Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango, and San Marcos; their inhabitants are mostly Maya.[15]

The Maya people of the Guatemala highlands include the Achi, Akatek, Chuj, Ixil, Jakaltek, Kaqchikel, K'iche', Mam, Poqomam, Poqomchi', Q'anjob'al, Q'eqchi', Tz'utujil and Uspantek.

The Q'eqchi' live in lowland areas of Alta Vera Paz, Peten, and Western Belize. Over the course of the succeeding centuries a series of land displacements, re-settlements, persecutions and migrations resulted in a wider dispersal of Q'eqchi' communities, into other regions of Guatemala (Izabal, Petén, El Quiché). They are the 2nd largest ethnic Maya group in Guatemala (after the K'iche') and one of the largest and most widespread throughout Central America.

In Guatemala, the Spanish colonial pattern of keeping the native population legally separate and subservient continued well into the 20th century.[citation needed] This resulted in many traditional customs being retained, as the only other option than traditional Maya life open to most Maya was entering the Hispanic culture at the very bottom rung. Because of this many Guatemalan Mayans, especially women, continue to wear traditional clothing, that varies according to their specific local identity.

The southeastern region of Guatemala (bordering with Honduras) includes groups such as the Ch'orti'. The northern lowland Petén region includes the Itza, whose language is near extinction but whose agro-forestry practices, including use of dietary and medicinal plants may still tell us much about pre-colonial management of the Maya lowlands.[16]

Maya heritage[edit]

Guatemalan girls in their traditional clothing from the town of Santa Catarina Palopó on Lake Atitlán

The Maya people are known for their brightly colored, yarn-based, textiles that are woven into capes, shirts, blouses, huipiles and dresses. Each village has its own distinctive pattern, making it possible to distinguish a person's home town. Women's clothing consists of a shirt and a long skirt. Roman Catholicism combined with the indigenous Maya religion to form the unique syncretic religion which prevailed throughout the country and still does in the rural regions. Beginning from negligible roots prior to 1960, however, Protestant Pentecostalism has grown to become the predominant religion of Guatemala City and other urban centers, and mid-sized towns. The unique religion is reflected in the local saint, Maximón, who is associated with the subterranean force of masculine fertility and prostitution. Always depicted in black, he wears a black hat and sits on a chair, often with a cigar placed in his mouth and a gun in his hand, with offerings of tobacco, alcohol, and Coca-cola at his feet. The locals know him as San Simon of Guatemala.

Maximón, a Maya deity

The Popol Vuh is the most significant work of Guatemalan literature in the K'iche' language, and one of the most important of Pre-Columbian American literature. It is a compendium of Mayan stories and legends, aimed to preserve Maya traditions. The first known version of this text dates from the 16th century and is written in Quiché transcribed in Latin characters. It was translated into Spanish by the Dominican priest Francisco Ximénez in the beginning of the 18th century. Due to its combination of historical, mythical, and religious elements, it has been called the Maya Bible. It is a vital document for understanding the culture of Pre-Columbian America. The Rabinal Achí is a dramatic work consisting of dance and text that is preserved as it was originally represented. It is thought to date from the 15th century and narrates the mythical and dynastic origins of the Toj K'iche' rulers of Rabinal, and their relationships with neighboring K'iche' of Q'umarkaj.[17] The Rabinal Achí is performed during the Rabinal festival of January 25, the day of Saint Paul. It was declared a masterpiece of oral tradition of humanity by UNESCO in 2005. The 16th century saw the first native-born Guatemalan writers that wrote in Spanish.

Maya Cultural Heritage Tourism[edit]

There is an undeniable symbiotic relationship between cultural heritage, tourism, and a national identity (Palmer 1999). In the case of the Maya, the many national identities have been constructed because of the growing demands placed on them by cultural tourism. By focusing on lifeways through costumes, rituals, diet, handicrafts, language, housing, or other features, the identity of the economy shifts from the sale of labor to that of the sale of culture.[18]

Global tourism is now considered one of the largest scale movement of goods, services, and people in history and a significant catalyst for economic development and sociopolitical change.[19] Estimated that between 35 and 40 percent of tourism today is represented by cultural tourism or heritage tourism, this alternative to mass tourism offers opportunities for place-based engagement that frames context for interaction by the lived space and everyday life of other peoples, as well as sites and objects of global historical significance.[20] In this production of tourism the use of historic symbols, signs, and topics form a new side that characterizes a nation and can play an active role in nation building.[21]

With this type of tourism, people argue that ethno-commerce may open unprecedented opportunities for creating value of various kinds. Tourists travel with cultural expectations, which has created a touristic experience sometimes faced with the need to invent traditions of artificial and contrived attractions, often developed at the expense of local tradition and meanings.[22]

An example of this can be seen in “Mayanizing Tourism on Roatan Island, Honduras: Archaeological Perspectives on Heritage, Development, and Indignity.” Alejandro j. Figueroa et al., combine archaeological data and ethnographic insights to explore a highly contested tourism economy in their discussion of how places on Roatan Island, Honduras, have become increasingly “Mayanized” over the past decade. As tour operators and developers continue to invent an idealized Maya past for the island, non-Maya archaeological remains and cultural patrimony are constantly being threatened and destroyed. While heritage tourism provides economic opportunities for some, it can devalue contributions made by less familiar groups.[23]

Childhood[edit]

Maya children typically perform household chores and help their family with day-to-day activities, including cooking, weaving, and even helping run the family business selling goods at home.[24] They usually learn how to perform these activities by observing the adults around them. They are motivated by a deep desire to be useful to their families. These activities are valued by the community, so the children feel value through their participation. From an early age, Maya children demonstrate a great desire to be included in the normal work activities of the household. Children from Yucatec, Mexico contribute to their communities such as farming corn, beans and squash that they learn through observational learning and working alongside the adults. The Maya children look forward to using their new acquired skills to work for the community.[25]Maya children learn much what they know through observation, imitation, and traditional nonverbal communication. For example, A girl from Yucatec, Mexico may learn how to make tortillas, by simply watching her grandmother make the tortillas and imitating her grandmothers actions. [26]

Notable Maya people[edit]

See also[edit]

Quotes[edit]

  • "We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism." – Rigoberta Menchú, 1992.[27]

Film and television[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Indigenous Peoples of the World: The Maya. Intercontinentalcry.org. Retrieved on 2014-04-27.
  2. ^ a b Nations, James D. (1 January 2010). The Maya Tropical Forest: People, Parks, and Ancient Cities. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-77877-1. 
  3. ^ The pre Columbian Civilisations of Central America – The Mesoamericans – Causes and Consequences of the Medieval Warm Period. Sites.google.com. Retrieved on 2014-04-27.
  4. ^ OSEA, Open School of Ethnography and Anthropology. "Maya or Mayans? On Correct Use of Terms". Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  5. ^ Castaneda, Quetzil (2004). "We Are Not Indigenous". Journal of Latin American Anthropology 9 (1): 36–63. Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Ethnoexodus: Maya Topographic Ruptures. I09.cgpublisher.com (2009-06-05). Retrieved on 2014-04-27.
  7. ^ Castillo Cocom, Juan A. (2007). "Maya Scenarios". Kroeber Papers 96: 13–35. 
  8. ^ a b Clendinnen, Inga (1989) Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatán, 1517–1570. p. 34. ISBN 0-521-37981-4
  9. ^ Restall, Matthew (1998). Maya Conquistador. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon. pp. xvi, 254.
  10. ^ Reed, Nelson (2002) The Caste War of Yucatán: Stanford University Press, ISBN 0-8047-4001-1
  11. ^ El Universal, el periódico de México líder en noticias y clasificados. El-universal.com.mx. Retrieved on 2014-04-27.
  12. ^ Noticias Indemaya. Indemaya.gob.mx. Retrieved on 2014-04-27.
  13. ^ a b Bienvenidos / Welcome. Yucatecos.org. Retrieved on 2014-04-27.
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ REPUBLICA DE GUATEMALA. inforpressca.com
  16. ^ Atran, Scott; Lois, Ximena; Ucan Ek', Edilberto(2004) Plants of the Peten Itza Maya, Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 38
  17. ^ Akkeren 1999, pp. 281, 288.
  18. ^ Comaroff, John L.; Jean Comaroff (2010). "Ethnicity, Inc.". Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  19. ^ Stronza, Amanda (2001). "Anthropology of Tourism: Forging New Ground for Ecotourism and Other Alternatives". Annual Review of Anthropology 30 (30): 261–83. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.30.1.261. 
  20. ^ Lefebvre, Henri (1974). The Production of Space. London: Wiley-Blackwell. 
  21. ^ Soper, Anne K.; Charles E. Greer; Daniel C. Knudsen (2008). "Mauritian Landscapes of Culture, Identity, and Tourism". Landscape, Tourism, and Meaning: 51–64. 
  22. ^ Smith, Laurajane (2007). Cultural Heritage: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies. London: Routledge. p. 104. 
  23. ^ Lyon, Sarah; E. Christian Wells (2012). Ethnographies of Global Tourism: Cultural Heritage, Economic Encounters, and the Redefinition of Impact. 
  24. ^ David F. Lancy; John Bock; Suzanne Gaskins (2010). "Chapter 5: Learning through Observation in Daily Life". The Anthropology of Learning in Childhood. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. 
  25. ^ Gaskins, Suzanne. Children's Daily Lives in a Mayan Village. Cambridge. p. 53. 
  26. ^ Gaskin, Suzanne (1999). Children's Engagement in the World. Cambridge. p. 53. 
  27. ^ Quote taken from an interview with her by a representative of a Central American human rights organization (Riis-Hansen 1992). Menchú gave this interview shortly before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Bibliography[edit]

Akkeren, Ruud van (July 1999). "Sacrifice at the Maize Tree: Rab'inal Achi in its historical and symbolic context". Ancient Mesoamerica (New York, USA: Cambridge University Press) 10 (2): 281–295. ISSN 0956-5361. OCLC 364022517.  (subscription required)
Chiappari, Christopher L. (2002). "Toward a Maya Theology of Liberation: The Reformulation of a "Traditional" Religion in the Global Context". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41 (1): 47–67. doi:10.1111/1468-5906.00099. 
Grube, Nikolai (2006). "Maya Today – From Indios Deprived of Rights to the Maya Movement". In Nikolai Grube (Ed.). Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest. Eva Eggebrecht and Matthias Seidel (assistant Eds.). Cologne: Könemann Press. pp. 417–425. ISBN 3-8331-1957-8. OCLC 71165439. 
Mooney, James, Wikisource-logo.svg "Maya Indians". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
Restall, Matthew (1997). The Maya World. Yucatecan Culture and Society, 1550–1850. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-3658-9.
Riis-Hansen, Anders (1992). "Interview with Rigoberta Menchu Tum". Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Central America (CODEHUCA). Retrieved 2006-07-03. 
Warren, Kay B. (1998). Indigenous Movements and Their Critics: Pan-Maya Activism in Guatemala. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-05882-5. 

Further reading[edit]

Voss, Alexander (2006). "Astronomy and Mathematics". In Nikolai Grube (ed.). Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest. Eva Eggebrecht and Matthias Seidel (assistant eds.). Cologne: Könemann. pp. 130–143. ISBN 3-8331-1957-8. OCLC 71165439. 
Wagner, Elizabeth (2006). "Maya Creation Myths and Cosmography". In Nikolai Grube (ed.). Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest. Eva Eggebrecht and Matthias Seidel (Assistant eds.). Cologne: Könemann. pp. 280–293. ISBN 3-8331-1957-8. OCLC 71165439. 

External links[edit]