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{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
Well, Gerónimo, is that good for you? Say something.

{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
Okay [[speaking native language]] [[Speaker 1 laughs]] Okay.

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
Well, I think we'll start now even though people are still filing in.

This is the first in a series of discussions about Maya culture

of the American Folklife Festival on Guatemala and it's going to be on--

focused on the indigenous culture or Native American culture

of the Maya Indians, the Maya Native Americans.

A lot of people, when I talk about Maya-- well let me introduce myself.

I am an anthropologist from Dartmouth College

and to my right I have Gerónimo Camposeco, who is a Jakaltek Indian,

one of about 20 some-odd different language groups from over 250 municipalities

in mostly the Western part of Highland Guatemala.

He is here as an exile

and we wanted to bring to you something of his personal story

about why he is here and about also what is the nature of Maya culture

past and present and its possibilities for the future

since this whole discussion is within the context of cultural conservation

and perhaps no example of endangering of Maya culture has-- is more severe than in--

or of any culture is more severe than the case of the Maya

where many, many have been killed in the last few years.

But before we-- before we get to this and to Gerónimo's own story,

I just wanted to give a little bit of background.

A lot of people when you mention Maya culture

say "Oh yes, that was something that existed in ancient times and then died out."

A lot of people believe

because of being aware of the archaeology of the Maya but not of their current culture

that somehow the culture flourished in ancient times and then died out,

which it very much has not.

Right now between Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize and a little bit of Honduras,

there are over 8 million Mayas.

They speak about 28 different Mayan languages.

Often people say dialects but they're not dialects;

they're different languages as different as French is from Provençal or Italian.

They're all related languages but most of them are not mutually-intelligible.

For example here, the people here are all speak Jakaltek, no, Gerónimo?

{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
Yes and Q'anjob'al.

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
And Q'anjob'al. Two languages which are fairly intelligible between the two, wouldn't you say?

{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
Yes, that's right.

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
But our weavers here over to our left in the cultural pavilion here

speak another language, Kaqchikel,

which is not intelligible to either of the languages spoken by the Mayas here.

And so, it's a very rich and very much alive culture

that although we have been made aware, perhaps, of the classic Maya and its collapse in the jungle area,

much less press we might say or much less attention has been given to the fact that

the Maya culture continues today with many of its aboriginal,

original cultural patterns still very much intact.

I did research on one group, yet a different language than either of these two

although we do communicate with each other in Spanish as the colonial language

of Guatemala and it's a special Spanish which is a little bit Mayanized,

certain special expressions that we share.

Some of the features of the Maya culture which have continued right down to the present,

some may have noticed from the program books if you read them

are the double calendar,

the calendar of 260 days,

which calendar diviners still use in many Maya towns

to decide the fates, to predict births, to decide when to plant,

to settle family disputes, to decide what's the best day to go to the market and so on.

This calendar which began before the time of Christ was once the--

a mainstay of all Mesoamerican cultures

and those are the cultures that came from about the middle of the Sonoran area of Mexico

all the way down into Honduras.

But today, it only-- they only survive in Highland Guatemalan communities.

Within Guatemala, there's about 4 million--

or were about 4 million Mayas as of the last census,

making them the largest population of Native Americans in one area

anywhere in all of the Americas

and they're also the dominant population in Guatemala,

representing over 60 percent of the population,

making them the only country in the North American continent

in which a Native American population is the dominant.

As we will see, however, that despite the fact that they are the majority of the population,

they have little-- very little or no say about the nature of the government

as a whole and have, ever since the conquest of 1524,

had a great deal of difficulty even preserving their--

their culture at the most local level.

Well, before talking any more about this,

I thought I would turn the mic over to Gerónimo Camposeco

who is an extraordinary individual

in that he, having come from a humble indigenous community

of the highlands of Guatemala, went on to get an education,

went on to the university in Guatemala

and became essentially Guatemala's first indigenous anthropologist.

In other words, a native person studying his own people

from an anthropological perspective,

something very hard to do in Guatemala anyway

just to get an education as an Indian but to do so focused on his own people

is something very, very special and something very applaudable.

Unfortunately, that was a lot of the reason why he had to leave his country of Guatemala,

which is why he's here.

But without going into further details,

I thought I would just let you tell a little bit of your own story, Gerónimo.

{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
Good afternoon.

Thank you for sharing with us these thoughts

about Guatemalan and Mayan culture.

We are here because not by our our desires because we prefer to stay in Guatemala,

working our lands and living in our own villages and homes there.

It's difficult for us as Indians

to leave our homeland because we are related very close to our lands

but we had to leave.

The problem of the civil war took the Mayan people

outside their homeland and that's the reason we are here.

We are Mayan exiles for the first time in the history,

we travel out of our lands and the situation is this that in Guatemala,

besides we were colonized more than 400 years ago,

we still trying to survive and have a restan- cultural resistance.

That's the reason we still speaks our-- our own language

and we are still living our own special way of life like Mayan.

We have our own organizations and our own Mayan calendar

and our own numbers and all those that our Mayan ancestors gave to us and-

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
and music.

{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
And music. Now we are presenting with my three fellow brothers here

the Mayan marimba instrument. This is a Mayan traditional instrument.

We are going to start performing today about 3 pm.

So you are going to listen music, very ancient music

even we don't know the names of the music.

But the way we do music is just someone

--one to two-- putting on the marimba what they are thinking

and that's what they teach us and we learn to--

to play the marimba music, and the special music of Indian, Mayan Indian is called a son.

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
It's a S-O-N, a son as they call it.

{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
Son, S-O-N, yes.

So, we are here, a group of about 4000 Mayan Indians

mostly living in California, others in Arizona

and 600 of us we are living in Florida.

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
In a town called Indian Town, ironically.
{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
Indian Town.

That's-- this town, Indian Town was called

because the Seminole Indians but long time ago.

There is no Indians living there. [[Speaker 1 laughs]]

{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
But now the name is very appropriate

because Mayan Indians are living there

and plus the reason why we are in Florida and other places like Arizona and California

is because we are traditional people working our lands.

We don't have other skills like to grow plants and corn and vegetables, beans and squashes.

And that's the reason the labor contractors brought

the Mayan Indians to these places to work and to sell the labor forces.

Now we don't have anymore our own houses, our own land.

We need to work every day in order to survive

because that's the difference from our place in Guatemala.

There we live in our-- as I said, we have everything.

Of course, because the European impact of the Conquistadores

they took our best lands from us and sent us to the top of the mountains.

The mountains they're-- these lands are not too good like the lowlands, you know?

The mountains are very cold. We only have once maize crops one, once a year.

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
Corn crops.

{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
Corn, yes. So, that's different.

In the lowlands, we used to have 2 or 3 crops,

so we had enough to feed our families, our children.

So despite of that we wanted to survive and we wanted to live as Indians.

We wanted to live that we are a nation with culture,

with rights, and we are ruled with other rights that the laws of the conquistadores and their--

[[asking a question about how to say "descendants" in English]]

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
Their descendants--

{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
Their descendants, and despite of that

we are struggling to live.

In the recent years the war,

the civil war took us outside

and now the Indians are being forced to live in other places, not their own places.

They are forced to live like in model villages,

living with other people,

and that's the way we are losing very fast our culture, our rights.

The people are living outside the country,

we are losing many things, as I said.

We need to work for other people, we are not practicing any more our family reunions,

we don't have the community anymore outside Guatemala.

So, what we are trying to do now is have some kind of legal status

not only in the United States, in Mexico and other countries like Costa Rica, Nicaragua,

in order to keep in some way our culture like community.

If we don't have those legal status we cannot keep our culture,

because we are struggling to hide ourselves from the laws that I said

are saying that we are here as illegal aliens, and that we have to live in other places,

because we don't have the right to live here.

We are refugees that came to the United States without any papers,

but now the lawyers are working for us trying to submit political asylum for humanitarian reasons.

For the reason that we need to survive as a people in exile, that's our situation now.

We don't want to lose nothing,

that's the reason we brought our marimba, we have our weavers here, we have our crafts,

and we are speaking each other our own language.

I don't know if there's more to explain, but we can go ahead--

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
Maybe you could just say a few things in Jakaltek and I could go back to the closing reading.

{SPEAKER name="Gerónimo Camposeco"}
[[greeting in Q'anjob'al]] I am going to talk in Q'anjob'al and sometimes in Jakaltek

beacause now I am working with refugees from a special place

called San Miguel Acatán from the mountains of Huehuetenango and I learned the language

is called Q'anjob'al because two of them are Q'anjob'al so I am going to talk to them and to you also.

[[talks in Q'anjob'al]]

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
Thank you very much, Gerónimo.

You're doing very well at another Mayan language,

I wish I was doing that well. [[laughter and applause]]

Mind you that's not his native Mayan language,

his is another one. But we're all learning in this experience.

One of the hard things for, that has been for me as an anthropologist

having studied these people, is to face the fact that many of the people

that one is working with, many of the cultures, many of the traditions that one is working with,

or which I was working with in the 70's for example are no longer there in the 80's.

Not because of the normal reasons such as people migrating out of it,

people through education or contact with the outside world deciding to change,

but people actually having been driven out of and off their lands or actually been killed.

And an example and point is there are signs around here of two men,

one playing a drum and another playing a little flute.

They're all around here, they're the announcers

announcing panels for the cultural conservation program here.

Well, all of those three people in the poster are now dead,

and they were all killed by the army in 1982.

They were all machine-gunned in their homes,

along with their wives and their children, and most of the rest of the people of their whole little village,

one sunny afternoon in October of 1982.

And people will ask me when I tell them about this

"Well why, why are they doing this?"

and it's very hard for me to explain,

because it's a dilemma of cultural conservation of the worst sort.

Are we getting near the end of time?
[[Staff member confirming in the BG]]

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"}
Okay-- yeah.

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