Meztizas tortillasAs you travel through the Maya villages of Yucatán and get a glimpse into the yards of the families, you may wonder about the lives of the inhabitants. Here is some insight into what goes on in the lives of the Maya. The homes you see are most likely one-room, oval-shaped, thatched-roof abodes. Most likely the floor is dirt, or if the family is more prosperous, the floor will be cement. Furnishings are mostly simple. During the day, this room is a living area and at night, it is the bedroom with hammocks that hang from the rafters. The entire family sleeps in this room.

There is most likely an altar with an interesting combination of Maya and Roman Catholic imagery, including pictures or statues of saints and the Virgin of Guadalupe, as well as candles and pictures of loved ones. If the family is prosperous, there may be a color TV.

While there may be a TV, you won’t find a refrigerator. The kitchen is in a separate building just out the back door. This lean-to type building is most likely made of black corrugated metal. There is probably no stove as the lady of the house uses firewood to do her daily cooking. In the backyard, you will find a well or pozo, probably a pig or two, turkeys, chickens and a rooster, and orange, lime, and other fruit trees. 
The house probably has no bathroom, so the furthest reaches of the back yard is where the family goes to the bathroom.

Life in the village begins early. Maya tend to get up early to get a head start on the long day ahead and to beat the heat. Hammocks are rolled up, the fire lit (this fire will burn all day long), and a typical breakfast of coffee and crackers is prepared.

If things are economically good, there might be tortillas with lard, beans, and if the chickens laid some, there will be eggs. If things are not too good and there is no coffee, the woman in charge of cooking burns tortillas and sets them in water to make a tea-type drink. To this she adds sugar. If there are no crackers, she might fry tortillas. While the man of the house is eating this breakfast, the woman prepares the lunch that he will take to work in the fields, or milpas. This is usually pozole or cornmeal gruel. She takes the corn kernels she boiled the day before with lime powder, and washes them to get rid of the lime. She then grinds it into a dough that is formed into a ball the size of a tennis ball, and set aside. Water is put into a container and this, along with the cornball and a gourd, is put into a bag.

Lunchtime is about 10:00 am. Remember, the Maya start their day early; breakfast is light and the work is hard. The man finds some shade and pours water into the gourd bowl, breaks off a piece of the corn dough and makes a thick gruel soup. To this he adds salt and chili max, pronounced “mash.”

For more information about the Maya, visit the Maya World Studies Center located in Mérida.

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