The Ancient Maya, 6th Edition
Robert J. Sharer with Loa P. Traxler

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THE MAYA OF TODAY REDISCOVER THEIR LOST HERITAGE

THE MAYA OF TODAY REDISCOVER THEIR LOST HERITAGE

The Maya people, their culture and society altered by Conquest and subsequent colonial policies, did not regain their freedom when the modern nations of Mexico, and Central America gained their independence from Spain in the early 19th century. Rather, the Maya, like indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, continued to be systematically suppressed by newly independent governments and socio-economic institutions... Today the impact of the modern world is transforming the outward forms of Maya culture at an unprecedented rate, changing profoundly what conquerors and colonizers could only partially disturb...

For the past five hundred years the Maya have protected their traditions and understood their past by maintaining both oral and written histories, dances, and rituals, often conducted at long remembered sacred locations. But the Maya are also now able to learn about their own past from the results of scholarly research. It is bitterly ironic that for two hundred years foreign scholars have been gathering and publishing information about Maya civilization, but only in the past few years have the Maya themselves been able to participate in this educational process. Fortunately, today Maya teachers are learning more about their past, and are able to use this information to educate Maya children. And more and more classroom instruction is being carried out in Mayan languages, rather than the language of the Spanish Conquest. Long overdue, at last the Maya themselves are rediscovering the achievements of Maya civilization, including knowledge of their Pre-Columbian writing system. This knowledge of their own past is engendering a sense of pride and self-worth in Maya people that has been forbidden for 500 years. Archaeology also brings tourism and opportunities for economic development. Many archaeologists work closely with Maya people and their communities to help realize the educational and economic benefits of archaeological research.

The Ancient Maya, 6th Edition, excerpt from pp. 11 & 16