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Tulum hotel forbids employees to speak Mayan amongst themselves

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Workers at the Copal hotel say many of their colleagues have been fired or given warnings for speaking their mother tongue while on the job. Photo: Courtesy

Employees at the Copal hotel in Tulum say that they have been told to not speak Mayan among themselves while working. 

Upset with the attitudes of their bosses, the workers staged a demonstration that caught the attention of thousands via social media. 

The complaints made their way all the way to Tulum’s mayor, Marciano Dzul Caamal, who offered the hotel workers legal assistance for their upcoming lawsuit. 

“This is racism and discrimination cut and dry. There is no room for this sort of behavior anywhere in Tulum or Mexico for that matter,” said Mayor Dzul Caamal.

Quintana Roo’s human rights commision has also taken on the workers’ case and has vowed to help them.

Several people on social media have pointed out the hypocrisy of marketing Quintana Roo using the Mayan culture as an attraction, while simultaneously denigrating and exploiting contemporary Maya. 

Earlier: Maya activists deliver ‘prize’ for racism to corporate pig farms

“This is disgusting but not surprising at all. Why is it that so many in Mexico love exploiting the culture of the Maya while treating Mayans like second-class citizens?” said @Bullybully83 on Twitter.  

Mayan archaeological sites including Tulum and Cobá are among Quintana Roo’s top tourist attractions, as are other elements of Maya culture such as cuisine and rituals. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Workers at the hotel claim that the lawsuit they are preparing is a last resort they had been trying to avoid for over a year since the first layoffs on linguistic grounds began. 

Legal analysts have pointed out that the workers are clearly in the right, and that prohibiting speech in native tongues, regardless of the reason, is unconstitutional. 

“Just off the top of my head I can think of a half-dozen reasons this is clearly illegal and unconstitutional,” said Chetumal-based lawyer and constitutional scholar Raúl López Ojeda.

The branch of the Mayan language known as Yucatec-Maya is spoken by approximately 800,000 people, the vast majority of whom are to be found on the Yucatán Peninsula.

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