They can cut down our branches, but they will never tear out our roots,” was the powerful cry our ancestors gave, as a wail of emotions vigorously invaded their souls. The fierce, distinctive and new way of thinking of a different people may have physically overpowered them. However, spiritually they had won the battle, and as a result came their immense desire to remain strong for the healthy preservation of our culture. Their cry was a prediction of a phenomenon that would one day occur.
The force, the spirit and the voices that reigned in this world were of our ancestors, the Great Mayas. Today, their voices, the voices of the past talk to us; they transmit positive energy, knowledge and hope. They predicted centuries ago that the Maya culture would one day revive to what it once was. It is neither pure coincidence nor is it a mistake that we, the present generation, are so intrigued that we dig deep down to find and reconcile our Maya roots. Twenty and more peoples with as many languages share traditions and spiritual culture with very deep roots.
We are the strength of the past, present, and the future; we are the Maya Guatemalan community. We are Ajaw-Kab’awil.
For my generation of Maya-Americans by the law of nature that curiosity was cultivated in our blood from the day we were conceived, for we are that prediction and that energy and force that our ancestors, the Maya ancients knew one day would rightfully exist again. We are the strength of the past, present, and the future; we are the Maya Guatemalan community. We are Ajaw-Kab’awil.
I am writing about our Maya people who live outside our native country. We are their children born in the United States. We want to tell our indigenous relatives in the United States that our culture and the traditions have migrated and have stayed with us. Our children are growing up in two different worlds.
One is the westernized American world and the other is the Maya Guatemalan world. Although this can be tricky while growing up, if we teach our younger people what our ancestors passed down to us, the lesson of maintaining balance in all aspects of our lives, our children will grow up to appreciate everything they have around them, including our Maya customs.
Ajaw-Kab’awil, in the Mayan language of Quiche means, the strength of the past, present, and the future. The past represents our ancestors, our grandparents and our parents. The present represents the young adults of today and the future represents our children. Ajaw-Kab’awil is a non-profit Guatemalan-American organization with headquarters in Indiantown, Fla., and counterparts all over the Maya world. We adopted the name Ajaw-Kab’awil to represent us because we indeed are a group of parents, young adults and children, a group of immigrants and residents, Guatemalans and Americans.
Indiantown, in south central Florida, where our own families are settled, is a gathering place for Maya people in the region. Many call Indiantown the Maya capital in the U.S. There are an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 Mayan people in our region, thousands in Indiantown. We, the Maya in the United States, are a migration of working people pushed out of our country by negative forces.
Most of our people are construction and agricultural workers, but also lawyers and students, shopkeepers and restaurateurs, landscapers, bellhops and waitresses and other professionals. We are Maya, studying and adapting to our new homeland, but always wishing to respect and participate in the culture of our ancestors.
That is why, after a period of time of contemplating, wishing and planning, our dream came true in April 2007, when we formally launched the organization. Since then, we have been abundantly blessed by the Ajaw, our lord and our creator. Many doors have opened for us, thus allowing us to meet amazing and distinguished individuals. But more than that, we are interested in learning and enriching ourselves with the greatest gift that our forefathers and our foremothers left for us to cultivate and preserve: our culture and our heritage.
We are ordinary and average people who have busy lives. It is inside of us where the flame of the Maya energy exists.
Aside from the activities and events held by our organization, we are ordinary and average people who have busy lives. It is inside of us where the flame of the Maya energy exists. It is in our minds that numerous philosophies roam about. It is in our hearts that we feel the pride of being descendants of a thousand-year-old culture, and it is in our souls and in our blood that we know the seed of Maya identity exists.
We have learned from our elders that by understanding and assimilating the content of our culture, we are able to apprehend our existence, therefore leading to the understanding of the diversity which exists in our world today. The Maya understood that by maintaining a balance between all things and all matter, they could gain peace in their souls and peace with the world around them. We want to assimilate and adopt that same philosophy, so as an organization and as individuals, we can help our brothers and sisters.
We accept and realize that learning about our Maya ethnology is a process that may take many years. That is why we believe it is highly important that while we learn little by little, we act it out, and practice it within our communities. Many of our young adults and children are currently enrolled in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and in college, as we too have high hopes of attaining a good and necessary education that will one day, not only benefit ourselves, but our families and communities also.
We are grateful for this opportunity to tell about ourselves in Indian Country Today. It is important to us that our North American Native brothers and sisters know that we exist and that we, Maya in the United States, are indigenous peoples of America.
If years ago, our other brothers and sisters were not as united as they are today and, as they will be in the near future, that is because our ancestors predicted it that way. That is why we are here, that is why we are uniting again with strength, to share our inheritance and to spread peace and tranquility, just as our ancestors once did, and just as they would like for us to do now. We are no mistake. We are no coincidence. We are Ajaw-Kab’awil, the strength of the past, the present, and the future. Let’s walk together, they said, there shall be no one ahead, nor shall there be anyone behind, together we shall reach our goal.
Lilian Cruz was born in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, which her family fled in 1987 to escape war. She currently attends Jacksonville State University in Florida.