Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala

by Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim: Reinforcing Our Roots, Living Our Maya Heritage
Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala
Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala
Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala
Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala
Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala
Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala
Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala
Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala
Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala
Maya Health Initiative in Northwestern Guatemala
Mrs. Cecilia
Mrs. Cecilia

Mrs. Cecilia lives in the community of K’isil, San Juan Ixcoy, Huehuetenango, and is a participant in our Q'anjob'al Maya Ancestral Medicine Project. She is recognized for her outstanding contribution to the health of the community and specializes in childbirth. Her knowledge was passed down to her from her mother and grandmother, who were also dedicated to this profession.

She also contributes to her community in many other ways. She served as President of the K’isil Women’s Commission and was a member of the Community Development Council. Currently she’s part of the Parents' Council of the Community School and is on the Administrative Committee of the Women's Clinic in her village.

A core part of Mrs. Cecilia’s knowledge as a midwife is her familiarity with various medicinal plants and their functions, which she uses and applies before, during, and after childbirth. She also knows about other methods of healing and recovery after bringing a baby into the world.

There are many people with these kinds of ancestral knowledge in Mrs. Cecilia’s community and many more all over Maya Territory. Each has a different specialty, according to the different needs that arise. Some treat burns. Others treat snakebites. Yet others are bone workers, or what might be called rheumatologists in contemporary medical language. This diversity of expertise enables them to serve community health. For the most part, these healers do not charge for their services and payment by patients is voluntary. They say that this work is a spiritual practice. The knowledge was entrusted to them, but it is for the service of the people.

Unfortunately, our Q’anjob’al Maya Ancestral Medicine Project, which we coordinate along with the Plurinational Government, was suspended in May because of the increase in cases of COVID-19 in Guatemala. But we were very excited to resume it in September. We are deeply grateful to GlobalGiving and the people who continue to support us as we carry out projects like this in order to recover and strengthen our ancestral knowledge.

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At the beginning of this project, we proposed focusing our training of ancestral medicine on women. However, the community requested that we expand it out to include men. In order to respect their autonomy, the project is now being directed at five men and seven women between the ages of 13 and 58. This diversification of ages is an opportunity to exchange the knowledge that already exists about Mayan medicine, strengthen it, and guarantee its continuity for generations. 

Of seven planned modules, two have been carried out. These include 1) The history of Mayan medicine in indigenous peoples, and 2) The Mayan cosmogony and its relationship with Mayan medicine. These topics have strengthened the foundation of this ancient knowledge in the participants.

In most Mayan communities of Guatemala, the participation of women is minimal, since domestic responsibilities almost always fall on them, which makes it difficult for them to fully participate in different processes that benefit their family, their community, and themselves. At Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim, we know that the training of men and women is essential to collaborate in the construction of a society that offers equal conditions between genders. For this reason, in carrying out the modules of the Ancestral Medicine Project, we have created a space for the attention and care of the children of the participants with a person in charge of the space. In this way, the care of the participants’ five children is not an obstacle to their participation and learning.

In order for the training process on Mayan medicine to have a greater impact, and to deepen and provide more knowledge to the participants, we have had the collaboration of two experts on the subject, both of Q'eqchi Mayan origin. To ensure that language is not a barrier between the instructors and participants, we had the support of an interpreter. The information provided in the workshops is being collected and systematized for future learning. 

Recently, in Guatemala, new prevention measures have been issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic, suspending face-to-face learning. However, we believe that now more than ever we must strengthen knowledge about our millennial health system, so we are looking into continuing the process virtually.

For this project to have life, it is counting on the support of a team of five people as well as the Project Coordinator of the Maya Pixan Ixim Community in the Mayan territory. This work is made possible through the generosity of our donors.


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Meeting about the future of the health project
Meeting about the future of the health project

We believe that everyone should have access to quality, culturally appropriate health care, regardless of their location, nationality or language, which is why we launched this project. Unfortunately, since we launched it, Maya Territory, already heavily affected by COVID-19, was ravaged by two powerful hurricanes just a week apart which destroyed homes and buried entire communities. Responding to that disaster and the needs of its victims has unfortunately delayed the launch of this project.

Nonetheless, from 8-9 January of this year, our Director of Programs in Maya Territory met with the Plurinational Ancestral Akateko, Chuj and Q'anjob'al Government, our primary partner in this project, to re-evaluate the project and its beneficiary communities in light of the new context.

After in-depth analysis, we concluded that the disaster underscored the urgent need to strengthen our ancestral life systems. We also decided that the health project will be carried out in the K’isil community, which sits 13 kilometers southeast of the municipality of San Juan Ixcoy, Huehuetenango and which was heavily damaged by the hurricanes.

During the meeting, project funds were used to hire two women to prepare the participants' meals, offering each of them two days of work and much needed income.


The next step of this project is a training process for a group of community medicinal plant practitioners, consisting of 6 modules over 3 months. Each module will last two days. The group is made up of 15 women who have excelled in the science of ancient medicine.

In order to analyze this process, at the end of it, we will ask the women how they feel, what the experience has been like, what they have recovered of ancestral medicinal practices, and what they have learned from others. We will also ask them about their expectations for the future, specifically, with the tools they have, how they visualize their work and their lives going forward.

You're donations are what make this possible, and we hope you'll continue to support us in bringing health are to Maya people in Maya Territory. One great opportunity is GlobalGiving's "little by little" matching campaign March 8-12th.

Preparing food for the meeting
Preparing food for the meeting


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Project Leader:
Luis Marcos
Omaha, NE United States
$7,248 raised of $25,000 goal
79 donations
$17,752 to go
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