Northern Maya Association of Belize Celebrates International Mother Language Day with Cultural Event

Northern Maya Association of Belize Celebrates International Mother Language Day with Cultural Event

On February 21, indigenous communities worldwide celebrate International Mother Language Day. In Belize, the Northern Maya Association of Belize, an entity working to preserve its culture, is holding a youth-centered cultural endeavor to highlight the day. The local non-profit organization has partnered with other entities and hopes the tongue-twisting event is a success. Reporter Vejea Alvarez tells us more. 

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The Northern Maya Association of Belize is spearheading an endeavor geared at preserving its culture and language. The Yucatec Maya translation contest dubbed “Let’s Translate” seeks to promote the Yucatec Mayan heritage among its youth. Fourteen students from seven primary schools in the Orange Walk District will be testing their wits and linguistic skills. The event is the brainchild association, whose President, Felicita Cantun, says it’s all about keeping their culture alive. 

Felicita Cantun, President, Northern Maya Association:Here in my community in Yo Creek like fifty years ago Maya was the first language. However these days we’re losing it at a fast pace and if we do not do something about it, it will die and when a language dies our culture, our traditions also die. So one of the objectives of the Northern Maya Association is to revive this language that is not dead, it’s heart beat is very very low but working as a group we can revive it. Like how my children say “Habla tu idioma.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The event is taking place on Friday at the Banquitas House of Culture, a place where its community art coordinator, Cindy Rivero, says culture comes to life. 

Cindy Rivero, Community Art Coordinator, Banquitas House of Culture: “It gives me great pleasure to be able to work with groups such as the Northern Maya Association of Belize, Kanan Miatsill, you know with Ms.Felicita Cantun who has been an avid advocate of safeguarding the Yucatec Maya culture in the entire country of Belize and so being able to work together with them to promote this activity really shows the efforts that we’re putting in our community and engaging the schools and engaging the children, the youths and adults in an activity like this. It’s one of a kind and we hope that it will be part or it will grow into something national eventually. Not only particularly about the Yucatec Maya culture but we also hope that it sparks something to other cultures of Belize as well.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The cultural contest will focus on the pronunciation of a list of words in Yucatec Maya and Spanish. Cantun says a panel of judges will score participants in various rounds.

Felicita Cantun, President, Northern Maya Association: “We’ll have three judges, one head judge who is very very fluent and knows the Maya language he’s even a writer he writes books in Maya. They know the language. So because Maya Yucatec is not very easy because of the alphabet, for example we have the “A” in English language we only have “A” the vowels with long and short sounds however in the Maya it’s different.”

Cindy Rivero, Community Art Coordinator, Banquitas House of Culture: “What we did is that we created a list where we have the English word, we have the Spanish translation and we also have the Maya translation and we provided audios of the pronunciation of those words so we gave those lists to the schools for them to work with the students to start to train them for them to get the pronunciation correct.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: While the event is centered on Mayan culture, Rivero is inviting Belizeans from across the jewel to tune in and show support. 

Cindy Rivero, Community Art Coordinator, Banquitas House of Culture: “We are inviting the general public to also join us on that day, come out and support these children, give them that sense of motivation for them to feel proud of what they’re doing and so let the best translator shine that day. The event is starting at nine sharp so we want everybody to be here at the Banquitas House of Culture parking lot before that time. It will be streamed live as well on the Northern Maya Association page so please if you are unable to join us physically you could also see the contest online, you could check out the Banquitas House of Culture page as well and just be a part of this great initiative that we are working towards.”

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