In a few months, I’ll be the mother of a child who is part Mayan.
How cool is that?
This civilization that I learned about throughout my childhood history classes will soon be the ancestry of my very own son or daughter. Maybe my kid’s ancestors helped build the pyramid at Chichen Itza. Maybe they traded with the city of Tulum. Maybe they carved the statues at Ek Balam. Maybe they lived their lives in small villages in the jungles of Yucatan.
Everyone I know in Cancun is fascinated by ancient Mayan culture, locals and expats alike. We go on day trips to visit the massive ruins and post selfies from the tops of Mayan pyramids. We watch colorful Mayan shows at Xcaret or at our resort. We take pictures with the guys in the huge Mayan headdresses on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen.
So if we love Mayans so much… why do we hate Mayans so much?
During my years in Cancun, I’ve heard the phrase pinche mayita thrown around quite a bit. I guess it would translate to something along the lines of “little f***ing Mayan”. Sometimes people will just say mayita (“little Mayan”), which sounds like it might be nicer, but it never is. The term is typically used as an insult, or to refer to somebody who might be in a lower social class, or just based on their appearance. (The Mayan people tend to be shorter and have darker skin.) The phrase always rubbed me the wrong way, but even more so when I started dating a guy of Mayan heritage then married into his lovely Mayan heritage family.
Over the past few generations, the Mayan people of the Yucatan region have even stopped speaking the Mayan language. My husband’s grandparents speak fluent Mayan, although I’ve only ever heard them speak Spanish. My husband’s parents speak some conversational Mayan and occasionally teach me little phrases, but I never hear them use these phrases in actual conversation. My husband speaks no Mayan, except for a few curse words that his uncles and friends taught him. When I asked why their native language was never passed down, I was told it’s because people are now embarrassed to speak it.
I hope this next generation of Mayans can overcome the pinche mayita mentality and realize just how important and amazing they are… including my kid.