Tag Archives: Belize

Q’eqchi’ Mayan Language Revitalization through Verbal Art

Q’eqchi’ Mayan Language Revitalization: Preserving Indigenous Legends on the Radio

Excerpt from the Cultural Survival Quarterly

#Proud2BIndigenous Week
May 13, 2014

 

“Francisco Choco’oj Paau, a Q’eqchi’ Maya storyteller from Cobán, Guatemala, then in his late fifties, would take his time to prepare to tell a story. He would say his prayers; he would burn his (copal) incense. That’s because, these weren’t just stories, they were ancient Mayan legends; legends that had been passed down from generation-to-generation; told in a precise way; told in the same way; for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Each legend holds a custom, tradition, or particular insight into Maya beliefs and culture. Each legend also holds a moral about Maya life…”

To promote Q’eqchi’ Mayan language revitalization through verbal art, Aurelio Sho, of Radio Ak’ Kutan in Belize, broadcasts Q’eqchi’ legends on a weekly storytelling program. The folktales from the Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala, narrated by Francisco Choco’oj Paau in 1978, are now being heard throughout the Toledo district of Belize. These legends about “The Buzzard and the Snake,” “The Snakes of Senahu,” “The Hunter,” “How to Cure a Toothache,” “The Dance of the Deer,” and in particular, “The Hills and the Corn,” are inspiring a young Q’eqchi’ generation to respect Mother Earth and to be grateful for her natural resources, while simultaneously rekindling ancient memories for their parents and grandparents, many of whom immigrated from Guatemala.

Aurelio Sho, Radio Ak' Kutan, Belize
Aurelio Sho, Radio Ak’ Kutan, Belize

To read more about the Q’eqchi’ Mayan language revitalization project and our efforts to broadcast Mayan legends on Indigenous community radio, see the complete article or visit: http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/qeqchi-mayan-language-revitalization-through-verbal-art

 

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Q’eqchi’ Maya Students Illustrate the Dance of the Deer

Tumul K’in Community Radio Class

Tumul K'in class illustrated the Dance of the Deer legend
Tumul K’in Q’eqchi’ and Mopan Maya students listened to the 1978 Q’eqchi’ recording of “The Dance of the Deer” told by Francisco Choco’oj Paau of Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. While everyone in the class was familiar with the “Deer Dance,” no one had heard the legend.

While visiting the intercultural Maya educational center at Tumul K’in in Blue Creek, Toledo District, Belize, the students in Aurelio Sho’s class on community radio and cultural identity listened to the original Q’eqchi’ recording of “The Dance of the Deer,” Laj Xajol Kej (from the Berinstein 2013 narrative collection), and then everyone in the  class, including the instructor, Aurelio Sho (in orange shirt) illustrated the story.

Tumul K'in class illustrated the Dance of the Deer legend
The Deer Dancer, drawn by Aurelio Sho, Tumul K’in instructor and Ak’ Kutan Community Radio Manager

Before the students began to illustrate the legend, the first question asked was, “Can we have a copy of the book?” At this time, they do not own any books. Imagine being the co-author of the first book you ever owned! That is the goal. Each book will list all of the artists in the class and it will include a CD of the narration, as well as the marimba music that is played during the Deer Dance performance. In this way, parents and grandparents can listen to the collection, while their children begin to read it.

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