It is said that language is where our culture lives and that for those who speak several, it is the language in which they think and dream that is closest to their hearts. An important aspect of Maya culture is oral tradition: passing on stories from within a family and community, talking about one’s dreams, singing together, recounting regional legends and life anecdotes… all of this keeps culture alive, thanks to the language that lives in their hearts.
Sadly, some of these native tongues have fallen prey to racism and discrimination. Several languages in our country have ceased to exist, and others are in danger of disappearing due to the small number of speakers left.
In Yucatán, young Maya, wary of new generations not learning the method of oral tradition, and being avid fans of rap, have begun to rap in Maya. The revaluation of this aspect of their culture has been its main message. For many young people, learning their ancestral tongue is not important, as the modern world calls for English. However, Maya rappers have been promoting Maya pride by identifying as such, learning from their grandparents, following traditions, and speaking and singing in Maya.
Art is a way of coming closer to the purest essence of life, transforming us and our path. Rap has allowed artistic expression through words and song. The art of Maya rap is part of a creative movement that’s popular amongst teens and children. Rappers have been preserving the culture and redefining ancient oral tradition in a fun and creative way. For those who don’t speak Maya, the purpose of Maya rap is simply enjoying the sound. When you listen to it, you also help their cause.
We live in a very technological time that drives us away from oral tradition. Have you ever been in a group in which people are just staring at their phones? It seems that at gatherings with friends or family, everyone is sitting and chatting online rather than actually talking to each other. Try to rap for a bit. Create a rhyme and add a beat to it. During your visit, listen to a bit of Maya rap and appreciate the beauty of our traditions, old and new.
Editorial by Andrea Medina
Doctor in Mesoamerican studies focused on Maya cultures
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