Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Department of Anthropology
Unmasking the Maya: The Story of Sna Jtz'ibajom





Theatre Group Photo

Play "Bolom Chon"

Translated as:

"Jaguar Animal in heaven,
Jaguar Animal on earth,
Your legs are lame,
 Jaguar Animal,
Your legs are long, 
Jaguar Animal.

One million Maya Indians from Mexico and Guatemala are living in the United States. Unlike earlier waves of immigrants to our shores, the Maya are descendants of a New World civilization whose mystery resonates across this continent, and the globe. Few Americans are aware that there was extensive trade between the ancient peoples of North America and Mexico for at least a thousand years. A darker mystery surrounds the modern Maya. After centuries of poverty and injustice, some fight for recognition behind a black Zapatista mask. Those who seek better economic opportunities by migrating north must disguise themselves in Western clothes and customs. Thus the Maya remain hidden, faceless, both at home and in the cities and rural areas of our country.



For the past twenty years, a Maya cooperative, named Sna Jtz'ibajom, The House of the Writer, has given a new voice to the people of Chiapas, Mexico. Its Teatro Lo'il Maxil, Monkey Business Theatre, has reached the most remote corners of the state. They have traveled north to tour the United States. Wherever they mount their plays -- at the Smithsonian Institution, university campuses, or on ranches that hire illegal migrant workers -- their mission is to entertain and to inform. Sna Jtz'ibajom celebrates ancient Maya traditions while unmasking the bitter realities that besiege the modern Maya world. This is the story of their efforts to project their culture into the future.


Introduction The Ancients Maya Today Preserving the Culture Speaking Out
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