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New petition seeks intangible cultural heritage status for Mayan language

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Veronica Garibay
Veronica Garibayhttp://yucatanmagazine.com
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

According to the Population Census, up until 2020 more than 520,580 people continue to speak Mayan today. Yet the government’s recognition of their needs continues to be incredibly low.

Mayan communities are present in every municipality of the state. Photo: Courtesy

“When a Yucatecan Maya leaves their community, for whatever reason, they take their language with them because it is inherent to their identity. This forces the state to generate institutional mechanisms that guarantee the use of their mother language,” said Congresswoman Manuela Cocom Bolio.

As defined by the UNESCO, intangible heritage consists of nonphysical intellectual wealth, such as folklore, customs, beliefs, traditions, knowledge, and language.

Because of this, the congresswoman presented an initiative for the Mayan language to be awarded intangible heritage status.

The language has been heavily studied and displayed, but the Governmental efforts for its conservation and development have always lacked. Photo: Courtesy

“The importance of the language can be observed from the perspective of its psycho-emotional value or potential”, says Cocom Bolio. “Language also creates a sense of identity and belonging; and, at the same time, a tradition or way of life.”

Although not heavily promoted, the language is present in everyday life around the Peninsula,  particularly in the surnames and names of municipalities.

In Yucatán Magazine: Tren Maya leads to amazing discovery of over 8000 archaeological remains in Yucatán

“It should be noted that the great knowledge that allowed the development of the Mayan culture was transmitted orally through time […] Through it we not only communicate, but it also becomes the tool through which we define our identity to the world, we tell our story and transmit knowledge from generation to generation”

Because of this, Manuela Cocom asks that the state follow the agreement of the Universal Declaration of the United Nations, to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples. 

Cultural and artistic expression has received attention and recognition recently. The poet and anthropologist María Elisa Chavarrea Chim (center) poses with her award in Tecax, Yucatán. Photo: Courtesy

“There needs to be official recognition for original cultures to thrive,” says Cocom. “We must follow the objectives presented by the UN. Revitalize, use, and promote to future generations have to become top tier priorities.”

This declaration would also imply that the Ministries of Education, Economic Development and Labor, Tourism Development, the Ministry of Culture and the Arts, the Institute for the Development of Mayan Culture, and the Municipalities carry out actions to preserve, disseminate and promote the language.

In Yucatán Magazine: Yucatecan poet receives award for promoting Mayan language and culture

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