The Chuj Maya live in a region that includes parts of western Guatemala and eastern Chiapas, Mexico.
They maintain strong ties despite the border, drawn in the 1800s, and the effects of the civil war in Guatemala which forced many Guatemalan Chuj to flee to Mexico and live as refugees in the 1980s and 90s. Now, about 6,000 Chuj live in 36 settlements in the area of Tziscao, the largest Chuj community in Mexico.
Most of the Chuj refugees from Guatemala are now Mexican citizens, but the Mexican government continues to deny the Chuj, both those born in Mexico and those naturalized later, their own cultural heritage. They are forced to live in confined communities with little land for farming in a region where there are few other job opportunities. The few government-built schools do not offer any intercultural education and they are located far away so that most students walk an hour or two each way, a grave safety concern, especially for girls.
In 2006, the Maya Educational Foundation began a scholarship program with the Sociedad Cooperativa “Productores Alternativos de la Selva” (PAS) to assist Chuj students in this area. Nine students are currently enrolled, six young women and three young men
The Chuj have a keen awareness of their recent history, their ancestral heritage, and their cultural wealth, but they know that if nothing is done to keep the Chuj language alive, it all will vanish, and younger generations will lose their identity as Chuj. Many people want to learn to read and write Chuj, so MEF funded the compilation and production of a Chuj language manual and related materials. A few adults and one of the students will organize literacy classes and train others to teach Chuj, the first step to maintaining a bi-lingual core of Chuj-Spanish speakers and preserving their past and future.
Your donation of $200 a month supports a Maya student at university level.