Tag Archives: Indigenous community radio

Q’eqchi’ Maya Storytelling Program

Q’eqchi’ Maya Storytelling Radio Program in Belize

When I first spoke with Aurelio Sho, Manager of Ak’ Kutan Radio, located at Tumul K’in Learning Center in Blue Creek, Belize, I asked (rather tentatively) if he might be interested in a Q’eqchi’ Maya Storytelling Program for his community radio broadcast. His reaction was an immediate, “yes!” He told me  how his father, a traditional Maya, would always tell him Maya legends and how he had been working with the one elder in the Toledo community who still narrates stories. He used to come in regularly to the station to narrate Q’eqchi’ legends, but he no longer comes in because it is too far a journey after working on his farm all day. Aurelio asked if I could send him a Q’eqchi’ story. I did. And that is how our collaboration began. After a few weeks, he wrote to me and said, “Everyone loves the story. Please send more!” After sending one story a month for five months, I realized that I needed to visit Belize and meet Aurelio in person and experience first-hand the impact that he was accomplishing through his Q’eqchi’ Maya Storytelling Program on the radio.

Now, in collaboration with Ak’ Kutan Radio, I am thrilled to announce that the complete Berinstein (2013) Q’eqchi Mayan Narrative collection is being produced on his weekly Q’eqchi Maya Storytelling Program. One of the most popular legends is the story about “The Dance of the Deer” because the dance is known throughout all parts of Belize and is still practiced widely in Guatemala, as well as Belize.

Indigenous-led community radio storytelling programs are able to revitalize language and culture through engagement in oral literature. When  Mayas narrate and broadcast folktales, legends, and other speech genres on their community-based radio stations; memories are rejuvenated and it encourages community participation in the restoration of customs and traditions. It also transmits a shared voice, a shared cultural identity. In this way, Q’eqchi’ Maya storytelling is being revitalized in Belize. And now, because Ak’ Kutan has just received a new transmitter that can broadcast 1000 watts (compared to the former 100 watt transmitter), the station  is reaching 97 % of Southern Belize. They are also reaching the southern communities in the Stann Creek District which is equivalent to approximately 30,000 radio listeners.

On this video of Maya Day, a celebration hosted by Tumul K’in,  the Mayas celebrate their cultural identity and perform traditional Mayan customs, including “The Dance of the Deer.” The deer dancers are fully adorned and the marimba music can be heard in this portrayal of a ritual dance on the video.

Maya Day, Tumul K’in Belize. Click the link to play the video clip.

Tumul K'in, Maya Educational Center, Belize
Tumul K’in, Maya Educational Center, Belize
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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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