ABSTRACT

Mérida, the capital city of Yucatán (located on the Peninsula of Yucatán, Mexico), houses almost one half of the state’s total population and centralizes most of the region’s cultural, political and private sectors, resulting in a local economy with a very high rate of non-rural jobs. This concentration of wealth and social institutions (universities, transportation, medical care, housing, wellpaid jobs, etc.) represents a veritable oasis in a state where abject poverty and marginality are the norm. The Maya professionals, who are at the center of this study, implement government plans and programs designed to promote their traditions and customs in a variety of public venues that have both local and international audiences. For example, they showcase their traditions locally in a festival that takes place every Sunday in Mérida’s main square. Furthermore, they promote their language with Mayan language radio and television and often hold contests to write songs or short stories. In the international arena, they organize

events in the United States, principally in the San Francisco Bay area, where a substantial Yucatecan Maya population has taken root (Cornelius et al. 2007) and are also active hosting celebrations such as the International Mother Language Day, sponsored by UNESCO. In addition, this work also discusses the paradox revolving around the fact that, although there has been a great increase in public awareness of Yucatecan Maya culture, this change has not eliminated erstwhile discriminatory ways of thinking from the local culture. I began my research with this idea, starting from some observations on government agencies where Maya professionals work. While some of these official matters have been documented, I realized that in order to gain a wider perspective it was imperative to search for life stories, that is, for a deeper and more complete analysis based also on the point of view of the main actors.