Los Abuelos Árboles y los árboles de nuestros abuelos
In 2021 the agroecological school of U Yits Ka’an organized two workshops on “the conservation of the trees of our elders,” which took place in Valladolid and in Maní. The aim of the workshops was to transmit the expertise rooted in Mayan culture on the caretaking, reproduction, and conservation of native trees. It was conceived to promote an understanding for the role the trees play in providing a healthy diet and to make a practical contribution to the caring cultivation of the forest. In the two workshops, elders shared stories and legends surrounding the trees. As described by a U Yits Ka'an text: “Each of these stories contains characters, morals, teachings, values, and a series of elements that could be useful for our struggles and our life choices.” The participants explored the benefits of the forests as a source of medicine and food and as a habitat for Melipona bees, while also discussing the ongoing threats posed by the logging industry, from deforestation for the benefit of industrial agriculture, and from other mega-projects.
Part of the workshop was also the presentation of conservation practices to establish ecological sanctuaries, and practitioners shared practical skills on grafting. The group visited agroforestry projects like Tixcacalcupul. Additionally, community radio XEPET La Voz de los Mayas recorded the stories of the elders for further dissemination.
Evaluating the experiences of the workshops on “Los Abuelos Árboles,” the agroecological school U Yits Ka'an decided to produce a podcast on the stories of the tree elders for the communal radio XEPET, La Voz de los Mayas. The goal of the recordings is to further disseminate the stories and knowledge of older generations in Mayan communities. The texts have been translated into Spanish and Yucatec Maya in order to make them widely accessible. In addition to the recordings made during the workshops, four local farmers from different communities were invited to share their stories and knowledges. Technical support for the recordings was provided by Pacífico Studios/Sureste Studios.
After assessing the outreach and feedback of the Abuelos Árboles recordings, a new idea emerged with U Yits Ka’an, namely, to produce a radio play. With music, sounds and a playful and dynamic story line, the radio play is mainly directed at children. Poet and writer Janil Uc Tun created the scripts based on the transcribed stories of the tree elders, and Salomé Ricalde will direct their adaptation into a radio play. In eight episodes it tells the story of Felicitas, a young student, who learns about the village of Yuum Báalam Kaaj, its surrounding ecosystem, its culture and cosmovision, through the stories of the village elders.
The radio play is thought of as a cultural and educational tool that is imagined to be used – in combination with additional learning materials – in schools, theatre plays, community reunions, or other communal activities, to address the cultural importance, healing and nutritional properties of trees in the face of the environmental challenges of today. To follow the local oral tradition, while at the same time making the tool accessible to a wider audience, the radio play will be combining Yucatec Maya and Spanish.
Currently rehearsals for the recording of the first episode are taking place. The production of the radio play, as well as the composition of musical themes and field recordings are realized by Alejandro J. Castillo Pinto from Pacifico Studios.