To'on, the Mayas of Today

To'on, Maayáa'onil Le K'iino'oba'

Through the eyes of independent cameras, the story is told and illustrated of the legend where the spectator can live a sensory experience with no distractions. This visual, sound, and textual story is complemented with the exhibit of a few select pieces which enrich and conclude each legend. 

The temporary exhibit To'on, the Mayas of Today is part of the concept that the Mayan identity builds in society, and from there comes the importance of “we”. However, since the arrival of the Spanish the identity was broken, and is reconstructed through discourse, the tsikbal. The most illustrative example is the legend del kuxa’an suum, the living rope: its destruction expresses the idea of the rupture of the rope-umbilical cord, but is rebuilt with discourse; and the day that the rope is unbroken is the day the Mayan world will revive.

The Mayan legend of the living rope, kuxa’an suum,is developed through seven “Legend Cameras” which represent the pieces the rope is made up of and the components of the identity of the contemporary Mayan people: the person, the family, the house, the village, the countryside, the work, and the religion.

The museography is formed of seven independent modules. The interaction between spectator and piece is achieved through the exhibit of the photographs, the soundtrack of the legends in the Mayan language, and the transcripts of the texts in Maya, Spanish, and English, allowing the spectator to relate the photographs and the objects they illustrate.

It is necessary to understand the importance of the current Mayan people and culture. Many of the customs, beliefs, rituals, and labor activities have prevailed through the years. Life and working as a community continue being central values of today’s Mayas, as well as individuality; but it is evident that Mayan society confronts a profound process of change as well as the challenge of maintaining their identity.

The Mayas are adapting to modern conditions. For their economic and social survival, some adopt and utilize that which benefits them the most: electricity, running water, communication methods, etc. But in spite of everything, they are countryside people, and with the help of the guardian spirits they maintain their corn fields. We must remember these are men made of corn.

To'on, the Mayas of Today presents a look at what the identity of the contemporary Mayan people means, which stays alive thanks to the use of the Mayan language, the tsikbal, the permanence of rituals, religious customs, and traditions deep-rooted in every-day life in spite of the inevitable changes which come along with modernization.

The photographs which illustrate the legends come from Fototeca Nacho López of the CDI, the Fundación Mexicana para el Desarrollo Rural, and from photographers Bob Schalkwijk, Pim Schalkwijk, Alfredo Martínez and from linguist Fidencio Briceño Chel.

Thanks to the auspices of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), the Gobierno del Estado de Yucatán and the Instituto de Historia y Museos de Yucatán, the exhibit will be open to the public from Nov. 15, 2013 until Jan. 25, 2014, at the Museo Regional Palacio Cantón, Paseo de Montejo x Calle 43, Centro.

Photographs by: Pim Schalkwijk and Bob Schalkwijk


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