The Maya of Today
As Rigoberta Menchú reminded the world in 1992 upon accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, “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.”
Today there are as many as 10 million Maya living in their ancestral lands and abroad. In some areas, the rural population lives much as they have for many centuries; their daykeepers, or spiritual guides, continue to maintain ancient Maya calendars. Elsewhere, the Maya are as modern as anyone else in the world.
“The Maya” are actually an extremely diverse group, and clumping them together under the label “modern” or “living” is problematic. They speak some 30 Mayan languages and, as a whole, make up one of the largest intact indigenous populations in the world.
Many Maya are proud of their shared heritage, and have begun a kind of cultural renaissance in the 21st century.
In the year 2012, look for workshops in Maya cosmology, medicine, weaving, and language — especially in hubs like Mérida, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Flores, and Antigua. There are also community-based tourism projects in Maya villages throughout the region.
Some people see the age of 2012 as a time for our various cultures to share their wisdom in a way that will benefit all. In his book The Living Maya, Dr. Robert Sitler discusses some of the more admirable values maintained by the Maya, which we non-Maya could benefit from: “Cherish our babies, connect with our communities, revere the natural world that sustains us, seek the wisdom of humanity’s elders, and immerse ourselves in direct experience of this divine world.”
The way forward in 2012, he says, is to embrace these living values of the Maya.
© Josh Berman from Moon Maya 2012