Celebrating International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Today Maya Traditions celebrates a special occasion deeply connected to our roots and existence as an organization, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The United Nations explains that this day, along with all of their designated international occasions, is observed “to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.” The UN and Maya Traditions Foundation recognize that indigenous communities should be celebrated, protected, and supported. For years, indigenous peoples have sought and fought for their rights to be valued, but throughout history, it’s been shown that they struggle to be respected by more dominant societies. Due to these challenges, the UN designated August 9th as the day to bring awareness and resolutions to the needs indigenous peoples face.By working and partnering directly with indigenous communities of the beautiful highlands of Guatemala, Maya Traditions has been able to exist. To recognize this day, we decided to highlight just a few of the incredible women from the Maya community, in the hopes to understand and embrace their cultural identity and their illuminating, unique ways of life that should be preserved.

A view of Lake Atitlán from Pnajachel, Guatemala.
Lake Atitlán, Panajachel

We first spoke with Isabel, Maya Traditions’ artisan development program coordinator. Isa is originally from Panajachel, Sololá, Guatemala, and is studying for her degree in Social Work. When asked about her culture, she states that she is most proud of the region she lives in, Lake Atitlán, describing it as “a natural wonder that provides resources to support families around it.” This area that Isabel calls home “contains so (much) ancestral knowledge, that its way of life and its connection with Mother Nature is unique. Therefore, we must respect it, admire it and, of course, value it.”

Fields in the Patanatíc village
Milpa fields in Patanatíc

Alongside Isa is Rosa, a member of Los Pinos, a local women’s co-operative in Guatemala, in the highlands of Patanatíc, Sololá. Rosa was quick to speak of her pride in her community when they came together and worked toward one common goal: the construction of four community water towers. Similar to Isa, Rosa feels proud of her origins: “We are Mayans, women, and men of corn…we are proud to live in open spaces where we can walk and feel the pure air of the trees in the woods, with the singing of the birds, making us feel happy because we can enjoy the nature of the world at its best.”

Image of a loom from a backstrap weaving class at the Maya Traditions Office.
A beautiful orange loom during a backstrap weaving class.

The youngest of the three women, Ana Maria, from Chuacruz, Sololá and a 10th-grade student studying Business Administration with the support of Maya Traditions’ Sponsorship Program states, “What makes me proud of my community is that it seeks development to excel in all areas. The majority of all women work in backstrap weaving, others make güipiles or girdles, and the men work on a foot loom… or in agriculture.”

Hearing these stories further advocates the need to celebrate today. These women, along with their families, inherently rely on and take pride in their connection to the world, its natural resources and traditional lands, and the people that make up their community. It’s vital that societies honor International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples every day of the year.

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