The Pinche Mayita Mentality

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.

20 thoughts on “The Pinche Mayita Mentality

  1. Congratulations on your new Baby. (Soon to be here). On the other hand, unfortunately that Mayan culture has been disappearing for ages which is a shame and unfortunateley it is because of the ignorant people that it is the majority. If you see more educated people embraces other cultures, they want to learn from other people. As for myself I think it is a great culture to learn and wish it would never disappear…

  2. great article but we have met many Mayans over the 13 years we have been coming to the area. I am only 5ft 8 so feel tall around them. We have always found them to be great people. I have picked up a few words but can never remember them. Your child will have 3 great cultures to be proud of. Very respectfully Lou Brewer

  3. How sad … I hope they do overcome this & bring the Mayan culture back. Your child will be so lucky to have great parents of Mayan & American decent!

  4. It’s the same way in other parts of Mexico but instead they say “Pinche Indio” or “A Como Eres Indio!” when someone doesn’t know something or to say someone is not educated.

  5. Good for you for feeling this way. It’s such a sad world where those who actually share the bloodline are ashamed or embarrassed. Your child will grow up proud of it’s heritage and I’m so jealous of the rich history you will all share <3 xxxx

  6. This was such a good read. I love Mexio, but the treatment of the Mayans really made me upset. I remember when I was working at a hotel (that will go unmentioned) I taught English classes to employees. A young Mayan girl was really excelling in her English and speaking with confidence, although her writing needed work. To make a long story short, a job opened at front desk, and when HR asked me who I would recommend for this job with good English proficiency, I suggested this girl. Much to my dismay, they picked a European-looking Mexixan whose English was just subpar. I asked HR why they did not hire my recommendation, and they just said her writing was not good enough. Although I knew the real reason, I just let it go.

  7. I live in Cancun since 12 years ago, so i have enough experience to talk about it, although you might hate me after reading my personal opinion.
    Lamentably the Maya concept is cool from the “tourist perspective” be cause you are based on the mayan history they have sold you during the tours. and the nice mayan people you have met during your trips, some of them are just being nice because they are chasing your tips.
    The “citizen perspective” is racist with fair reason, when you become a citizen of this destiny you stumble with other reality. The people we fill like calling them “pinche mayita” is people that shows the worst part of them probably be cause they don’t like national foreigners. They act lazy, negligent, too proud, ambitious, selfish, abusive and it’s impossible to be reasonable with them when you try to make them understand something, they always think they are right even if they don’t. The only way you change that is with money, if you don’t represent money for them they just treat you this way.

    And off course this does not apply for everyone, I have found really good friends with maya ancestors, although I still finding in them some of the features mentioned before.

    All this in order to answer your doubt and not to ofend your husband and his family. I’m just talking about my personal experience and other’s I have heard of.
    Best wishes.

    • Thanks for the comment Mag. I respect your opinion, but I have to say that my experience has been so much different from yours! I spend quite a bit of time every year in Mayan-heritage towns, and as a foreigner I have never received any negative treatment from them. If anything, I’ve always felt like the people of the Yucatan Peninsula have been very open-minded to me as a foreigner. I guess there are good people and bad people, just like in any other culture.

  8. That’s so sad. When I was in the Yucatan, I was always under the impression that the people there were proud of their Mayan heritage because it was displayed so grandly in the tourist towns. 🙁

    • Hi Ceri! In the past few years there have been tours popping up that take tourists to real Mayan villages. I think being able to see tourists be so interested in their culture has made the locals more proud of their heritage, and I hope it drives them to continue with their traditions.

  9. I’ve followed your blog for a while but this is the first time I’ve commented. Congratulations on your baby! My marriage is a lot like yours. We live in Texas. I’m American of Danish heritage and my husband is from Campeche Mx. His heritage is Mayan and Spanish. Our four kids are beautiful (and I don’t say that just because they’re mine) and I’m sure yours will be too. Our daughters are quite a bit smaller than I am because they take after my husband’s side but our son is average size (my husband was hoping he’d be taller like my side) lol. A couple of years ago, my husband and my son did a tour of the Mayan Riviera and my son loved it. He felt so tall! LOL My father-in-law also spoke Mayan and the family still uses a few Mayan words mixed with Spanish. I taught my kids to be proud of their Mayan heritage. The Mayans were an amazing civilization and extremely advanced.

    • Thanks for reading, Debbie! My husband and his brothers are taller than I am, but only a little. Most of the rest of his family is shorter than I am, and most people in my family are very average height, so we’ll see how tall this kid gets. 🙂

      Have you been to Campeche? I hear it’s gorgeous!

  10. It’s exactly like the Mexican -American in Texas , they don’t want to spick Spanish. I’m from Monterrey Mexico and mine children spick English and Spanish and they are so proud of be Mexican_ American.

    • Yes, I’ve heard other people say that many children of Mexicans who move to the USA don’t try to speak Spanish. Good for you for making them proud! 🙂

  11. Congratulations on your child, I bet you’re very excited to see your little one! So sorry too, that you will have to anticipate seeing your child getting that same kind of treatment from the locals. It’s hard to understand why they see Mayans so low, and it’s a shame that such treatment is wiping out the culture of such fantastic people. I am with you in wishing that your kid won’t get the same treatment, and that people in years to come will be more open and accepting.

  12. Laura,

    Can u recommend the way to take a day trip to Chichen Itza aside from going with a tour group? We did the tour thing last year, but found it was too rushed. We will be in Cancun for 10 wonderful days this November.

    Thanks!

    Susan

  13. Honestly when I first saw the title I thought that you had just misspelled “mayate.” But it’s just a different term with the same prefix and a different derogatory connotation. To Hell with it, just take it back. It’s the majority that determines the meaning. Carefully introduce a positive connotation in the States and we can work it down lol.

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