The Maya Book Project

The goal of the Maya Book Project is to support Guatemalans in their effort to reclaim Mayan culture through the publication and distribution of books in the indigenous languages of the Maya.

In the spring of 2016, 500 copies of El Bosque de Don Margarito were published in Guatemala. It is a bilingual book in Spanish and K'iche’, the indigenous language of the people of Saq Ja’, where the story is set. This Spanish/K’iche’ version of Margarito's Forest has been very well received, especially by promoters of Maya culture and the many Mayan linguistic communities. Our aim has been to identify schools and communities where Margarito’s Forest will be used in significant educational ways.

Here is an example of one of the Maya book Project’s activities:

The Maya Book Project donated 50 copies of the Spanish-K'iche' version of Margarito's Forest to the rural K'iche' communities of Pacutama and Chuicutama in the region of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan. The books were donated to the elementary school children in the Pacutama elementary school in grades 1-6 and to the children in the Chuicutama elementary school grades 1-6. The donation was accompanied by a children's talk about the importance of environmental and forest conservation, as well as a 4000 tree reforestation project organized by the local organization, Yabal Handicrafts.

Here are comments from the Reforestation Project Coordinator, Nehemias Mejia:

"The donation of El Bosque de Don Margarito to the children in these two communities is such a wonderful gift! Most of the families in these communities don't own books, let alone books that are in their first language of K'iche'. In addition, there is much adult illiteracy and many people speak only a little Spanish. So, it's wonderful that the children have their own copy of this book that is both in their native language of K'iche' as well as in Spanish, and that tells a story of their own culture. There is a huge problem of deforestation in this region of Guatemala that causes all sorts of problems for communities that live here. This book is really important for educating the next generation. Thank you so much for this donation!"

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The original 500 copies of El Bosque de Don Margarito were distributed to schools and indigenous cultural organizations in Guatemala. Requests from additional schools and communities came forward demonstrating a broader demand.

Individual donations and a grant from For a Better Tomorrow foundation allowed the printing of 3000 more Spanish/K'iche' books which began distribution in February 2020. Unfortunately, the closing of schools due to the covid pandemic has hindered follow up. This reality pushed the Maya Book Project to proceed in another direction, translating the book to another Maya language: MAM We are now developing a distribution strategy for these Spanish/Mam books. You can help cover costs of printing and distribution through a tax deductible donation, helping Guatemala children learn about Maya culture, wisdom, and environmental stewardship.

The Maya Book Project is directed by a Steering Committee in Guatemala that meets periodically to review progress and set goals.

Allison Havens, Eduardo Elias, Omar Mejia, Petrona López Pastor, and Lázaro Reyes Sajbin