The benefits of ancient history for modern Maya people


El valor significativo de la historia antigua para los pueblos mayas del presente


International aid agencies in Guatemala have centered a lot of their help on the Maya people, a marginalized group whose history has been systematically suppressed, to the point of being annulled. Yet, many projects focus on the recovery of their recent history, of the years of civil war, without taking into account the benefits of ancient history. Its positive vantages seem practically absent in their discussions or in the theoretical framework of their projects. Why the need of focusing on the remote past?


For an obvious reason. This history may be old, but those who receive it are present-day people. A lifelong experience of teaching pre-Hispanic and colonial history to Highland Maya proves it may have the impact of a revelation, a moment of catharsis, a connection with their ancestral origins, having a direct effect on their self-esteem and urge for identity. In addition, it provides people with what is known in the anthropological literature as the ethnical charter, their reason of existence. This history may be ancient but operates in the present, creating a sense of communitas. In this essay we want to show the importance of ancient history to modern Maya, and its connection with their recent history.


It claims that the reconstruction of the Maya past should be an essential component of every aid project in the Guatemalan Highlands aspiring sociocultural change and the strengthening of indigenous identity.

Entire essay in spanish:

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