The program was organized and produced by Enrique Valdés, the Director of Cultural and Sustainable Tourism at the Mayaland Hotel near Chichen Itza. Enrique endeavors to translate the resources that come with the increasing attention given to the Yucatan’s Maya heritage by the rest of the world into benefits for the local community. In the other direction, Enrique also works to carefully, lovingly and with sensitivity and consideration educate the tourists who visit his hotel about the local Maya community. As someone who grew up in that community but has since branched out and expanded his horizons, he is uniquely qualified to understand the pitfalls and perils associated with both of his endeavors.
Knowing how important his work is to him, we were delighted and pleased to see that his latest program is not even related to tourism. Instead, this program is all about connecting the two worlds that live side by side on the Yucatan Peninsula, but often know nothing about each other. Or worse, operate with misconceptions or lack of respect for each other due to a long and checkered history.
“Encounter between Two Yucatecan Worlds” was held a month ago at Uxmal under the auspices of Enrique’s program, supported and sponsored by FICMAYA (Feria Internacional para la Cultura Maya), ENIM, the municipalities of Santa Elena, Muna and Maxcanu, Mayaland Resorts, the EDARAYS (Development and high-performance chess Center), CULTUR and Centro INAH Uxmal.
For this event, 25 Maya children from the Escuela 18 de Marzo of the rural village of San Simón, in the municipality of Santa Elena, gathered with 25 children from the Colegio Español Mexicano in Merida. Each of the children were accompanied by their father or mother to spend the day together, forging a partnership and bringing together the two Yucatecan worlds that coexist both near to each other and yet quite far apart at the same time in Yucatán. What was brought together at Uxmal that day was the world of the Maya and the world of the non-Maya children, with both sets of children setting examples for their families and communities.
From 9 in the morning until 9 in the evening, these children and their parents participated in numerous activities together. They dined together. They joined hands in a circle around an opening ceremony that was guided by two Mayan priests. They planted a sacred Ceiba tree to symbolize the beginning a program that will encourage, organize and continue activities and communication between Maya and non-Maya Yucatecans.
The group of parents and children also played chess sponsored by the group FICMAYA, underlining the concept that everything begins in the mind, and acknowledging that this activity is a good exercise for the mind and consciousness of both children and adults. It is also an activity where both Maya and non-Maya children can meet on a level playing ground.
The families exchanged several gifts, included plants delivered from the Maya children and parents to the families in Merida, with the hope that they will take care of them. With this activity, the Maya children and families hoped to give a concrete gift that would encourage the non-Maya children to recognize the healing nature of maintaining a close communication with the living nature of the land, and with their Maya brothers and sisters. The group also visited the archaeological site of Uxmal, enjoyed the light and sound show and thus shared an experience that underlined the heritage that all these families share.
We were invited to attend a press conference announcing this event, but were unable to attend. Despite our absence, we are very supportive of this program and wanted to shed some light on it so that others can know about it. We also see this as an historic event, one that may create an example of cooperation and cultural exchange for both current and future generations of Maya and non-Maya in Yucatan. Kudos to Enrique and his employers for initiating this program and we hope to hear about more events like this!
If you are interested in finding out more about this program, you can contact Enrique Valdés at +52-997-976-2014 or by email at turismo_sustentable [at] mayaland [dot] com.