Heritage and everyday lives

BlogJAM: U kúuchil kaambal kuxtal: School for life

Sanahcat, which comes from the ancient name Ts’anlajk’at, is a Mayan community situated in the mid-south of the Yucatán state. It belongs to the former henequen area, with a population of 1,701 inhabitants (as per the 2020 INEGI [National Statistics and Geography Institute] Census).

It is part of the Anillo de Cenotes State Geohydrological Reserve. In its capacity as a community organization U Yich Lu’um A.C wanted to make the creation of its own popular curriculum in a rural context a reality. The Sanahcat community, has historically been entangled in a slew of violent events, such as the Mayan Social War (1845) and the establishment of the henequen era (1860-1910); not least taking into account the racial hurt that Spanish colonialism caused among members of the local population.

This historic period (the henequen era) is known as the age of green gold, a name attributed to henequen agroindustry (cultivation of an agave genus plant species), and exportation to US and European markets of products derived from it. In Yucatan, the Spanish-origin local elite would force Mayan families off their land in order to set up henequen plantations and haciendas. Along with this came a wave of violence that resulted in the semi-enslavement of Mayan men, women, and children through corporal punishment and humiliations, ranging from incarceration and whipping to stocks (traps used for hunting animals).

Like U Yich Lu’um, our aim is to recall these historic events in order to study the past and find certain keys to the violence which is currently being experienced in the community. As such, the school itself is not exempt when it comes to replicating violent practices and is one of the spaces in which children are subjected to them by teachers. Moreover, violent conflicts arising between girls and boys seem not to provoke any concern.

Our approaches are based on the premise that the rural population needs to be listened to and respected. Doing the opposite leads to people becoming more alienated from the joint work being done. Like U Yich Lu’um, we propose ideas to the community, both must be part of the dialogue to help foster inter-awareness.

Learnings for life. Like U Yich Lu’um, we propose a problem-solving oriented, popular education, i.e. an education that can transform the reality and view it critically, in which people are able to comprehend and interpret the world in which they live.

Mind, heart, and hands. Our education is centred around children’s feelings and thoughts and needs to forge an emotional connection with them because what they learn needs to be meaningful for them. In addition, they will be the driving force in the creation and development of activities and products designed to help them grow.

With respect for children’s autonomous learning there is assessment of children when they learn through getting to know one another, through doing, through living with others, and when they learn how to be.

With a comprehensive perspective. It will be intercultural, based on historical analysis, intergenerational, autonomous, assembly-based, and horizontal.

With a gender-based approach, a critical and analytical look at how gender is lived and making way for the rethinking of the concept of gender in a community like Sanahcat. On the one hand, breaking down traditional learned prejudices and stereotypes that have built up over time, and on the other, recuperating healthy relations which have been inherited through our Mayan grandparents.

Linguistic revitalization is an urgent necessity for transmission of the Mayan language through generations because it is threatened with extinction. When a language disappears, so too does the rural community’s way of seeing the world.

We want to succeed, through our processes in learning community:  being inclusive, participatory and mutual assistance, understanding, and knowledge-sharing approach.

Since joining the EdJAM network we have continued our work with the following activities. 

From U Yich Lu’um and our U Kúuchil Kaambal Kuxtal: School for Life, it is important to listen to the voice of children. What worries them, what are their interests, their fears?  Walking the School for Life is seeking Toj óolal (well-being) WITH and from childhood. This is our dream!

Supporting the School for Life with children is talking about our natural medicine, our fauna, birds and also community art:

Generating processes with children is to think about collective and community care. For this, in our School for Life we ​​are developing our protocols:

  1. information on child care where we had the opportunity to learn about some of the fears of children,
  2.  a code of conduct for the organization and for all those person who would like to collaborate in our school,
  3. notification format in a situation of sexual violence.

As adults who work with children, we weave a web and start from three modules that, rather than fragment, guide us on how we think about the curricular plan of our School for Life: U Kúuchil Kambal Kuxta

  1. Revitalization of the Mayan language
  2. Local History
  3. Gender perspective

For us, the participation of children in the processes that they go through is fundamental, which is why we consult them about the modules that we propose, we listen to their interests in relation to each one and we validate that this fabric makes sense to them.

Children wonder:

  • How did the Mayans survive and what was their skin like?
  • How did the Spaniards conquer a Mayan?
  • How did a Mayan conquer a Spaniard?
  • How were mestizas created?
  • How were hipiles created with the little bows?
  • How was the jarana created?
  • What do the boys play and what do the girls play?


Children created their own rules of coexistence.  They told us what games they like and how they like to learn.  

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