Like so many Indigenous youth in these times, The Mayan youth of southern Belize are losing touch with the cultural traditions that have maintained their people over millennia. The pernicious encroachment of industrialized culture, especially digital culture – even for those from communities with little access to the internet – is slowing eroding the transmission of traditional stories – and most importantly, the songs of the ancestors.
This project aims to recuperate this knowledge and rekindle the interest of Mayan youth in their own music. In the summer of 2017, when Crique Sarco village hosted the launch and celebration of the Maya Lands Registry, a village elder pulled out his Maya harp and another his family marimba for the first time in a decade or longer. What they saw gave them much joy: the children were hanging around these instruments with fascination, many of them asking to play.
This project will also revive two other important Mayan cultural traditions: how to make Koxtal bags and weave baskets using forest material in designs specific to this region. Incorporating these Mayan culture classes into the regular school week will begin to ‘balance’ out the state education with its emphasis on Belizean nationalism.
Following 36 weeks of classes, the youth will showcase their new skills, new songs and knowledge with a celebratory concert and an exhibition of what they have created.
Ancestral songs are the memory of a culture. In a village that has fought for its ancestral land and protected it from oil drilling, Mayan youth will learn how to play their traditional instruments and come away humming songs once handed down generation to generation.