Declaration from the Councils of Maya Knowledge Holders about the expropriation of the sacred city, El Mirador

Declaration from the Councils of Maya Knowledge Holders about the expropriation of the sacred city, El Mirador

June 28, 2020

The Ancestral Maya City of El Mirador is not negotiable, is not for sale, it must be respected

Ajq’ija’, Ajme’s, Ajaq’omanela’, Aj Ilonel, Ajchinamitali’ e K’amaltab’ey Illoma and other specialties in the Maya culture, inheritors of  ancestral wisdom of the Maya civilization, from our roots and our trunk, that orients us to reconstitute the Good Living, organized in distinct Councils in the Maya territory, we declare ourselves against the project of archeologist Richard Hansen and his  collaborators in Guatemala and abroad, to build a <<tourist route>> in the Cradle of Maya Civilization, the ancient Maya city, El Mirador, located in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Peten.

For years, North American universities and some Guatemalan archeologists have conducted archeological studies in our territory. When the State allows it, it is because those who administer it are associates of transnational corporations and they are solely interested in turning into commodity what is in sight, and generating business for themselves.

It has become public knowledge that Mr. Hansen, a North American archaeologist, receives funding from the U.S. government and the Mormon Church to conduct his excavations. Likewise, it is known that despite Mr. Hansen’s tenure at El Mirador for about 27 years, there is little to nothing that is public about his research findings; these supposedly scientific investigations could contribute to the history and knowledge about Maya culture.

Since 2002, it is known that Hansen has sought to control over 3,000 km2 of the Maya Biosphere Reserve (Cfr. Teena Clipston). We affirm that neither this nor the archeological centers are for sale or rent. For us, they are centers that provide information about the biological diversity and the structures inform us about the engineering, astronomy, agriculture, mathematics, system of governance, food system and the cosmological perspectives of the Maya. So, we ask ourselves: Where is the information from exploration and research projects that span 27 years? Has he reached any of the scientific objectives put forward in his research projects? Surely, the university that supports Hansen can and must answer these questions. Questions also arise about his studies: and his graduate thesis. This information could explain the reasons for so much greed and contempt towards the Maya descendants. You, Hansen, know that we will benefit little to nothing from your project. Multiple questions have emerged over your resume, your business dealings and relationships; we need answers over these aspects.

Now, we know for sure that Mr. Hansen has political allies and investors. Amongst these politicians are the US Senators Jim Inhofe (R- OK), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Jim Risch (R- ID).  These senators introduced Senate Bill 3131 on December 19, 2019 otherwise known as The Mirador-Calakmul Basin Maya Security & Conservation Partnership Act. From their imperialist vision, these senators, as the sponsors of the Bill in question, are violating the sovereignty of our Peoples. They make decisions regarding the territorial, historic, and cultural heritage of the Maya People without <<free, prior, and informed>> consultation, as established in the International Labor Organization’ Convention 169 (Article 6). This is another violation to the collective and historic rights of the Maya People regarding  their historical patrimony and millenarian culture.

Archaeological research that has been realized with transparency, scientific rigor and committed to the historical rights of the Maya people have contributed to the knowledge and reconstruction of Maya history and culture, unlike the extractivist, commodified, and pirated work of Mr. Hansen and his collaborators. We are indignant that Hansen’s mercantile projects attempt to use us like objects of study and as commodity for tourism. It is false to say that these projects will lift the Maya out of poverty, but it is certainly true that investors visualize great profits, in detriment of the biodiversity of the Maya Biosphere Reserve and the millenarian legacy of the Maya.

We know that many Maya archeological artifacts are located in private collections and in public museums in the U.S. and Europe. With these artifacts, not only has the object been expropriated, but so has Maya ancestral knowledge. Will this be the continuity of piracy in the 21st century? We have been expropriated of unique historical and cultural treasures, just like in the time of the invasion and colonization. Mr. Hansen is a descendant of piracy, colonialism and is a subject to imperialist neocolonialism. We don’t want him or his harmful mercantilist projects in the Maya Biosphere Reserve.

In ancient structures, Maya knowledge holders encountered paintings, engravings, and sculptures that reveal to us designs, colors and measurements, historical writings, geometry, links with the constellations and visions of the dimensions of the world and the universe; the permanent dialogue with these, and others, constitutes the dimensions that bring us closer to the elements and form of the scientific work of our peoples, who interrelate knowledge and do not separate them, as is done by dominant Eurocentric science .

A few years ago, the archaeologist Hansen took Maya spiritual guides to celebrate ceremonies at El Mirador. The purpose of these activities was to show that he is an ally of the Maya spiritual guides, a falsehood sold as truth. We do not know if there was ingenuity of the spiritual guides or if they were betrayed when conducting the ceremonies at El Mirador with said man, they must offer an explanation.

The tangible and intangible cultural heritage related to the ancient Maya city, El Mirador, is commercialized by Mr. Hansen, who seeks to appropriate the line of business called, spiritual tourism, in the context of the spiritual crisis of consumer society. Hansen and his partners intend for people tired of the consumer society to come to El Mirador to nourish themselves with the spiritual richness of the Maya, and he, as an intermediary, only visualizes the exploitation of the Maya, ensuring profits for investors and for himself.

One of the archaeologists who returned the information to the Maya People used the expression “the eternal Maya”. And that is who we are! We can confirm this after having survived the genocide from the invasion, slavery and indoctrination during the period of Spanish colonization; then, alienation, assimilation and integration of indigenism of the Republic. Added to this is the dispossession of lands, genocide during the armed conflict, impoverishment and, recently, interculturalism with the Indio permitido or <<Permitted Indian>> policy. Indigenous peoples have faced many attempts at annihilation! But we have resisted, we are alive and we can say: Yes, we are eternal, we will resurge again.

Many archaeologists have denied the historical continuity of the Maya people! They separate the ancient from the contemporary; it is their pseudo-scientific formula to break the connection between the ancient or the past and the present. The historical and cultural resistance of the Maya and other peoples was capable to safeguard the unquestionable relationship between the Maya of yesterday and those of today.

During the period of colonization and resistance, our grandmothers and grandfathers did not go to the official schools because there was no access and coverage, and because their parents resisted sending them, as it was the institution in charge of shaping the intellect of the new generations. In oral tradition, diverse knowledge is conserved, and at the same time, they were recorded in books of great importance such as the Popol Wuj. For example, in Izapa, we find chapters about the creation; in Takalik Ab’aj, the passage of Ixq’anil happened, when Ixkik’ left Xibalbá; in Tonima, we find the passage when Jun Ajpu and Ixb’alamke went to play ball at Xib’alb’a; and in Ceibal, we find Tojil with his hand of fire. Thus, in several Maya structures, what is said in our sacred book is confirmed. The content of the Popol Wuj does not only date to 400 years ago, it comes from thousands of years. These stories were developed alongside Tikal, Yaxja and El Mirador, among others.

Scientific knowledge of the Maya related to the system of health and disease is linked to cosmological, herbalist, psychological knowledge and the practice of our own spirituality, a legacy of our ancestors that does not end because it is born from life and is for life.

We Maya knowledge holders are part of the great process of life based on the hope of the Good Living of the Peoples, but this great process faces avarice and the risk of destruction by extractive projects such as El Mirador by the pirate archaeologist and his national and international partners.

Therefore, we demand:

  1. Senators Jim Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, and Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho, withdraw Bill S.3131, known as “The Mirador-Calakmul Basin Maya Security & Conservation Partnership Act,” that it not be approved because there are several Maya and non-Maya communities, organizations, institutions and professionals against it.
  2. Hansen, leave, you are needed at your university and at your Mormon church. Leave El Mirador. We, based on our right to self-determination, demand the results of your investigations, which, eventually, could help us. For sure, you have been well paid during all the years you were in El Mirador. We demand that you return the Maya artifacts that are in private and public museums outside our borders.
  3. Hansen, we appeal to your ethics, and demand that you deliver to the Maya People, represented by Ancestral Authorities, organized in Councils, all the information obtained during your stay in the territory, as it is our historical heritage, and refrain from the commercialization of this information obtained in the excavations.
  4. We absolutely do not support the economic and political groups of power that, are also contesting the El Mirador project for their businesses in Guatemala. With the same force in which we criticize the expropriation that Mr. Hansen is attempting, we also criticize the expropriation of the groups that operate in Guatemala, which, as we know, have co-opted the Guatemalan State.
  5. No project can be done behind the back of the living forces of the Maya People, of the communities that inhabit the places that are being explored, particularly their representative organizations at the local and national level. To all the forces of the Maya People, Spiritual Authorities, Ancestral Authorities, Indigenous Governments, organizations of all kinds, decolonized intellectuals and professionals; we call for the vigilance of our territory and our natural goods. Aligning ourselves to power means a defeat for our Peoples and for our lives.


Councils of Maya Knowledge Holders

Ixim Ulew New B’aqtun, June 28, 2020

Translated by Jonathan David Zepeta Xico, Aurora Pedro, Sinnai Avila


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