Modern Maya culture
Thee arrival of the Spaniards, and later other European nations, did the Maya no good. War, violance and oppression was the order of the day for an avarage Maya familiy.
For years, Maya children were thaught at school that the great ruins in the surrounding were the remains of an great civilazation that once lived there. No word is mentioned about the fact that they are part of that same great culture. They learned all about the Ancient Greeks, The Romans, the arrival of Columbus and the American Civil War, but they learned nothing about their own past.
Many people still believe the Maya are hisorical figures, gone for centuries. Some of them don't even call the Mayas by their own name but call them Indios, expressing their believe that there is no cultural relation between them and the Ancient Maya.
But the circa nine million Maya's that exist today in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala are holding on to their culture. The Spaniards were able to rob the Maya from their land, but not from their identity. In many communities they are still practicing traditional rituals in honour of the Ancient gods. During period of drought, traditional priests will bring offerings of pork, sigarettes and even Coca-Cola on a specially made altar for Chac, the Raingod. Even the famous Day of the Dead has an Pre-Columbian origin
The use of the ritual Tzolkin Calendar is increasing and the traditional costumes are worn by the younger generations. Although traditional, the Maya are not living in the past and adapt to new influances. An example of this can be found in their language, in which they introduced a word for laptop (kematz'iib', meaning: 'writingloom').
In spite of the fierce opposition, indian man and woman are holding key positions in the Guatemalan society. Rigoberta Menchú (see picture) received the Nobelprice for Peace in 1992 for her struggle of rights for the indigenous cultures. In 1983 her book was published called: I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian woman in Guatamala. With the money she received for the Nobelprice she founded a foundation with the main purpose of protecting the rights of the indigenous cultures. During presidential elections in Guatemala, she travels through the country to convince the Maya that their voice is important for the outcome. There are even rumours that Rigoberta Menchu could win such elections if she decides to run for president.
There is still a long way to travel, but the Maya are once again in control of their own future.