Mobilising ritual and celebrating the seeds of Maya culture in the Yucatán and Belize

  • Llanes Ortiz, Genner (CoI)

Project: Research

Project Details


This research is part of the ‘Indigeneity in the Contemporary World: Politics, Performance, Belonging' project, funded by the European Research Council and based at Royal Holloway, University of London, in the United Kingdom.

My particular project aims to report how the Maya of Belize and the Yucatán region have come to understand their identities in the ever-changing conditions they face in relation to both the States they find themselves within, as well as the global networks of Indigenous activism, tourism, and the media. I intend to approach these questions by looking at the organized ways in which the Maya have decided to mobilise their cultural heritage, in particular their rituals, in public celebrations of their identity through ‘ferias’ and festivals.

In the case of the Yucatan region, my objective is to establish a collaborative research relationship with the alliance of individuals and organizations behind the annual celebration of the ‘Ferias de las Semillas Nativas’ (Native Seeds Festivals) in different seats and at different moments. These celebrations of material, living culture, ie. maize corn, have incorporated a renewed repertoirse of ritual practices and performance narratives that aim to convey a sense of cultural belonging and continuity among Yucatec Maya-speaking people in the region. I am also interested in approaching the Maya Council of Priests and Elders, to enquire about their strategies to promote Maya spirituality and awareness of history in the Yucatecan public sphere.

In the case of Belize, I am interested in striking a similar collaborative relationship with Tumul K’in Center of Learning, a project that runs an intercultural education project in the Toledo district. Tumul K’in has been the key promoter of the celebration of Maya Day, a festival designed to promote the visibility of Maya peoples' presence, traditions and demands.

Following different strategies, these movements are giving way to new forms of expressing and performing their histories, knowledges and identities in the public sphere that decisively challenge the monolithic narratives of national homogeneity, in the case of Mexico, or the denial of nativeness, in the case of Belize.

Among these strategic performances of indigeneity, one finds what I here call the “mobilisation of ritual”. With this I intend to characterise the conscious and creative reframing of powerful symbolic practices that have become central to the activities of indigenous movements. The way these ritual performances are framed is aimed at communicating a sentiment of continuity, unity and transformation. Some examples of these ritual activities are inaugural offerings, historical memorials, collective prayers, and spiritually informed collective celebrations.

Although this research proposal has a strong anthropological emphasis, it will strive to present performative and media-based notions to understand these new ritual practices in both their political as well as their aesthetic contributions to re-shaping conventional notions of indigeneity.
Effective start/end date1/06/11 → …