Baktún: honoring Maya wisdom

03 | 07 | 2020

The Maya not only left a heritage, as a living culture, they’re a world treasure.

Despite our “age of connectivity,” estrangement by so much of the population from the lives of regional communities, including indigenous peoples, is perhaps greater than ever. The cultural, symbolic, linguistic, and even biological diversity of these groups is a true living treasure. It’s up to all of us to value and respect them.    

The Maya Are Not a Society of The Past

Many people think that the Maya are part of history. It’s important to remember that, on the Yucatán Península alone, more than 1.5 million people consider themselves Maya. They maintain a lifestyle rooted in the practices and cosmogony of their ancestors. Their beliefs and the relationships they cultivate with the environment and with each other have survived the many onslaughts of history. 

Their knowledge and ways of being in the world command respect, care, and visibility to survive. More and more Maya are abandoning their traditional scheme of life. In many cases, this is because it’s no longer sustainable. Such schemes include the milpa, a place of cultivation, but also of learning and ritual life. They may also abandon language, clothing, and other similar traditions. Their territory, much of it natural jungle rich in biodiversity, is being exploited with little consideration for the future.

Baktún, An Impulse to Honor and Preserve Maya Wealth

Baktún is an alliance among multiple organizations and individuals. Its aim is to preserve the heritage of Maya communities. The premise is simple: by encouraging the transmission of knowledge between generations, Mayan culture could be permanently rescued. As some of those involved describe it: the well-being of these groups lies in the protection of their heritage.

Baktún projects are concentrated along three lines of action: cultural heritage (tangible and intangible), natural heritage, and a regenerative economy. To achieve these ends, the overall project has established networks of work with communities to restore and preserve their different types of heritage. They promote activities that contribute to a community economy, and nationally and internationally promote the enormous value of the Yucatán Península.

Some Projects of The Baktún Initiative

The restoration of tangible heritage is essential. It’s the best way to honor the Maya past. The initiative supports communities in the revitalization of monuments, urban landscapes, and traditional architecture. Closely linked to this are the urban planning projects. These aim to improve urbanization processes and implement conservation projects. Heritage catalogues are also generated to keep a record of conservation needs.

The work is done directly with the communities. Part of the process begins with the formation of Maya cultural promoters to strengthen local identity. Community knowledge workshops focus on language, traditional medicine, and cooking. The Baktún initiative also promotes community economies and food security,to make better use of resources and to optimize crops based on local knowledge.

All of this is linked to the protection of the Maya forest,the promotion of sustainable agriculture, and the existence of biological corridors. As an inventory of cultural heritage is made, the cataloguing of natural and agricultural heritage is also supported. Economic activities like sustainable tourism are also promoted.

Care for Maya Wisdom is a Collective Job

Maintaining the world’s diversity and opening channels of communication with other forms of life is everyone’s responsibility. Projects like the Baktún initiative, which put us in touch with the knowledge of communities such as the Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula, and which reconnect the descendants of these groups with the traditions of their ancestors, are increasingly necessary. In our own time, we shouldn’t favor a homogenization of lifestyles, but the inexhaustible diversity of resources and inspiration.

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