Activities in the Yucatán Peninsula related to the Maya, especially in tourism, are just a first encounter when you visit us, but Maya culture didn’t stay in the past. It’s present in the daily lives of all Yucatecos: in language, food, dance, and many other activities that you can discover through its people.
Today, we want you to get to know two Maya individuals up close so that, through their stories, you can learn about this living culture and how it unfolds in the present.
Bernardo Caamal, known as the Arux, embodies Maya culture. Despite studying agronomy through a scholarship from the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI), which offered him several career paths, he chose to return to his roots, contributing to a radio station known as XEPET, “La voz de los mayas”(the voice of the Maya), to which you can tune in online or, if you are near Peto, Yucatán, at 105.5 FM and 7:30 am.
Why did he make this decision? Because he recognizes the difficulties they face there, from the lack of teachers to the low academic content they are taught; in his words, “the rural sector is neglected.”
For Bernardo, sharing Maya culture involves volunteering on the radio to talk (in the Maya language) about agronomy, his profession, but always including ancient Maya knowledge, such as rains and planting systems. He does this so that all people, Maya or not, can learn more about their culture.
In this space (and in his daily life), Bernardo points out that, beyond the Milpa (planting fields) and archaeological sites, Maya culture is present in features like the distinctive local accent, easily recognizable when you visit the state.
On the other hand, María Candelaria May is a contemporary Maya woman proud of her roots. She not only works as a teacher and principal at a primary school in Dzitnup, Valladolid, but is also a cultural facilitator.
Although she acknowledges that she used to distance herself from her roots due to the discrimination often exercised against Maya communities, she now resists and values her roots to the point of wanting everyone to know more about her culture.
She shares that Maya culture can be found today in various dietary practices, such as the preparation of nixtamalized tortillas, but also in rituals that are still practiced, in embroidery using various techniques, or in the cultivation of edible and medicinal plants.
You can learn more about all this by directly engaging with the communities. There are even spaces like Pachpakal, Solar Maya, located in Maní, that aim to show you some culinary traditions and Milpa cultivation, the breeding of hairless pigs, as well as other traditions, much closer.
During your travels, talk to the people you meet and listen to what they have to say.
By Cecilia Abreu
Communicator and Yucatecan journalist. In the process of growth while living in the present.
Photography by Cecilia Abreu, Sara Alba, and Yucatán Today for its use in Yucatán Today.
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