Culture Clash:
Guatemala home to both Maya and Europeans

Monica Flores

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Culture Question #1

500 years ago,
The Yucatan Peninsula

We invite all the community to the plaza at noon today for the "Descent of the Gods" ceremony. Local youth will be participating in this coming-of-age ceremony. Thirteen-year-old boys, be prepared for the formal ritual with our priest, who'll be cutting the white bead you've worn in your hair for the last eight years. After this ceremony, you'll be living in a separate house with the other unmarried young men of our town. Young ladies of 13 and up, remind your mothers that they'll be removing the red shell from the string you've worn around your waist since you were 5. The shell's removal is a sign of your availability for marriage. Families and friends are all invited to join and especially wear our special colors, Culture Sidebar #1mapped to the four cardinal directions. As a reminder: we associate red with the east and black with the west. White identifies the north, while yellow symbolizes the south.


From the Horse's Mouth In other news, those of you traveling to Chichen Itza, please be advised of heavy foot traffic. Many individuals plan to see the great pyramid for the special vernal equinox display. As you know, we Mayans often align our temples to the sun, Culture Question #2moon, stars, and particularly the planet Venus. Next week, during the vernal equinox (March 21), the great pyramid's shape will seem to reflect a picture of the great sky-serpent, that appears out of the stone's pattern and descends in a short, 34-minute period. Those of you traveling, please have a safe journey.


Culture Sidebar #2In news about crops, the Spaniards have been slowly taking over more of our cropland. While they have steel and iron tools, and the ability to manage large tracts of land, let us remember that we are the ones who labor. We are the ones who actually grow the tobacco, sugar cane, fruits and vegetables. The foreigners shouldn't be the only ones to profit, and we must be very careful about who holds what power.

  Culture Sidebar #3  

From the Horse's MouthFLASH FORWARD!
Present Day,
Guatemala City

Sale on huipiles today! Let's remember to support our local Mayan culture by shopping at the downtown crafts fair. Huipiles, the popular embroidered, sleeveless tunics, have worldwide recognition for their detailed depictions of our popular bird, the quetzal, as well as diamonds, toads, and jaguars, all important mythological symbols. The Mayan indigenous peoples have kept their more than 21 languages, distinct traditions, and unique culture intact despite 500 years of colonization. By buying huipiles and other traditional clothing like trajes and enredos (wraparound skirts), we can bring fair market value and attention to these finely-made pieces and their makers.


Culture Sidebar #4 Book now for special rates on our tour of Livingston, on the east coast. This city is the heart of our Garifuna population, descendants of African slaves forcibly resettled off the Honduran coast by the British after they refused to work From the Horse's Mouth on the island of St. Vincent, in the Caribbean. While the Garifuna and native indigenous populations still struggle to rise above inequalities in status and opportunity, ladinos, or intermixed Mayan natives and opeans, hold much of the socio-economic power, as well as the older Hispanic families.


Culture Sidebar #5 Remember, church on Sunday for the estimated 70% of Guatemalan Roman Catholics. Have you or a family member recently joined another faith tradition? In the last twenty years almost 3 out of 10 Guatemalans have become evangelical, protestant Christians.


Culture Question #3In agricultural business, sales of Guatemalan coffee, an international delicacy, are up. In fact, almost any schoolchild around the world could walk into their local coffee house and ask to see what types of coffee beans are from Guatemala. Also, crops of sugar cane, cotton, bananas, fruit, and vegetables, particularly on the Pacific coast, continue to do well.


That's all the news that's fit to print!

Culture Question #4
Culture Question #5