I am Proud to be an Indigenous Girl

Maite** is a young girl who sees the beauty in her Mayan culture.
January 31, 2018 - Guatemala

Maite** with her family

At age seven, only 54 percent of indigenous girls are in school, compared to the 71 percent of indigenous boys and 75 percent of nonindigenous girls. At age 16, only 25 percent of indigenous girls are enrolled, compared to approximately 45 percent of indigenous boys and about 50 percent of nonindigenous girls and boys.

Most indigenous girls have domestic responsibilities, such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of younger siblings. Girls are expected to work hard and fulfill important roles in the family.*

The family of Maite** is originally from the town of Acatenango, just at the foot of the Volcano Acatenango. The parents fled from their home during the civil war of Guatemala in the 80’s and luckily arrived safely at the small village of San Bernabé of Parramos.

The family is proud of their indigenous culture; they are preserving as many traditions as they possibly can. Maite is 11 years old and has two brothers and three sisters. She just finished the 5th grade of primary school successfully and has classes of the Mayan language Kaq Chikel with the Teacher Florinda at NPH Guatemala.

Even though her family's heritage is Mayan, she still benefits from learning the language at school, as they rarely speak it within the family. Her favorite word is “mes,” which means cat. Only her grandmother still speaks Kaq Chikel, and the classes helped Maite to understand her grandmother better. When asked herwhat she knows about the Mayan culture, she shares, “I know they did rituals in their temples and ate animals and fruits. They went to the jungle together to look for food and went fishing at the river. They made fire with stones and played 'fútbol'.”

Her family keeps many ingenious traditions still alive at home, like using the typical stone “Ab’äj” to grind vegetables, or the crock pot “B’ojoy” to serve coffee. They make tortillas and atole, a rice drink. They grow typical vegetables of a Mayan diet, like beans, corn and herbs, such as Chipilín and Cilantro.

Maite especially likes to cook “Pulique,” which is the typical dish of the families’ origin Acatenango. She is proud of the traditional dress of her culture; she shares, “What I like is that the “Güpil” is made by hand and that it is so colorful. It is very beautiful and I like it.”

Maite is a shining example of how a young indigenous girl can successfully integrate into modern education. With support from her family and the NPH Guatemala school, she can continue to preserve her special traditions and remember her roots. It's clear that she sees the beauty and color that her culture brings to her own life, and to the country of Guatemala.

*INE Insitituto Nacional de Estadisticas Guatemala, Report 2014: Encuesta Nacional de Condiciones de Vida -ENCOVI-

**Names changes due to privacy purpose

Thomas Hartig   
Communication Officer

You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson




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