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Home arrow Sociology arrow Balancing the World: Contemporary Maya ajq’ijab in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Non-visitor work - life and responsibilities

The interviewees all stressed that an ajq’ij works for the community. But working for the community does not just mean solving problems for specific people when problems arise. An ajq’ij also works by doing ceremonies on behalf of the community as a whole, by doing general counselling for larger groups, and by conserving what they see as important elements of Maya tradition and culture.

Keeping days, keeping tradition

An important task for any ajq’ij, or daykeeper, is to literally keep the days. Maintaining the calendar, keeping track of time and do offerings to the days themselves are central tasks.[1]

Most of all, the ajq’ij needs to count time. [...] She needs to maintain the calendar, because every day has a nahual. Every day, the ajq’ij needs to give thanks to the nahual, that is, according to the day she was born and her generation.

- Odilia

Several of the interviewees, when talking about the ajq’ij as a daykeeper, would also take it to mean that they have a responsibility to be tradition-bearers.

In my opinion, our spiritual wealth should be disclosed to the whole world, so they can comprehend, so they can understand us. We’re not witches or heretics. We’re the philosophers of our culture.

- Juan

The Maya spirituality is what our ancestors left us. To me, it’s something that we can’t forget, and that we need to bring to the generations that come after us.

- Rosa

[An ajq’ij should function as] a repository - of history, legend, origins - the collective memory if you like of a community, or sometimes of a family.

- Martin

One of the best ways for the interviewees to preserve the tradition is to teach the youth about their work, their values and their worldview.

[As ajq’ijab] we have a duty, we have a commitment, we have spirituality, we have an idea, we have something of value in our hands, we have a distinctive culture. [We should] teach by being good examples to our youth, so that they can learn to respect [our culture], to value it; and we should guide those who do not know it.

We should teach them about our culture. For example, to respect our elders; to respect our Mother Earth; to value our culture, that was given to us by our ancestors, our grandparents; and guide those who do not know. We should explain what our culture is, what an ajq’ij does. [Teach the youth] how to be clean, how to be honest, and to value our parents and our siblings. [Teach them] to respect the mountains, our altars. Because nowadays, the youth does not respect the altars, that is, the burning-places, where the ajq’ijab do their ceremonies.

- Odilia

  • [1] For more information on time as a central aspect for the ajq’ijab’s work, see Tedlock,Time and Maya.
 
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