Tuesday, May 6, 2014


My name is Joe Keszler and am a student at East Stroudsburg University.  As part of my geography class assignments, I had to create a blog about a specific culture. The culture I was assigned was the Ch'ol Maya, a branch of the vast Mayan empire that covered Mesoamerica centuries ago.  I've always been interested in the Mayan culture, so this should be a fun assignment.

I've posted the blogs in the following order from first(bottom) to last(top):
  1. History of the Ch'ol Maya
  2. Chiapas: Homeland of the Ch'ol Maya
  3. World of the Ch'ol
  4. Ch'ol Maya and the Cosmos
  5. Birds of the Ch'ol Maya
  6. Ch'ol Maya and their neighbors
  7. Ch'ol Maya Migrations
  8. Ch'ol Maya Cultural Survival
  9. References


The following links lead to the websites where I found all of my information. Thanks for checking out my blog! 



Ch’ol Maya Cultural Survival

             The Mayan culture as a whole has been a culture in decline ever since the Spanish conquest in the early 16th century.  I previously believed he conquistadors dominated the Mayans in a swift takeover, however I found out it took 170 years for the final Mayan landmark to fall to the Spanish.  Due to the Mayans vast number of independent states, they had no political center for the Spaniards to overthrow.  The conquistadors had to takedown each individual state one by one, making for a very lengthy war.  Ever since then, those independent states have continued to dwindle in numbers.

              It’s sad to see such a spiritual and intelligent civilization destroyed by foreign explorers for their own selfish gains. The Mayans had tons of riches, including gold and silver that caused the Spaniards to start their crusade against the natives.  Instead of learning the new culture and embracing new ideas and information, the Spaniards killed off and destroyed as much as they could of the great Mayan civilization.

A picture of that the Spaniards may have looked like to the Mayans during their conquest

Ch’ol Maya Migrations

            The Ch’ol people did not always live in southeastern Mexico.  Over 2000 years ago, they lived in what is now Guatemala and Honduras. Over a long period of time, the group split in two, dividing into the Ch’ol and Chorti.  The ch’ol migrated to their current location, while the Chorti stayed in Guatemala.  This relationship explains why the two branches have such close language ties from my previous blog. 

Other than that one large-scale migration, the Ch’ol have stayed relatively in place ever since.  I can’t find any records of Ch’ol Maya living anywhere else in Central or South America. They are content with their location, as they have some of the most fertile ground in Mexico to grow agriculture on.  They have cultivated the same land for thousands of years, I wouldn’t want go migrate elsewhere if I were them, either.

Ch’ol Maya and their Neighbors

             The Ch’ol have immediate neighbors in Chiapas, like the Tzeltal, as well as close relatives in Tabasco, the Chontal, and the Chorti of eastern Guatemala. The Tzeltal just about double the Ch’oles population in Chiapas.  Even though they were severely oppressed under Spanish rule for hundreds of years, they were able to persevere to be a majority of the Chiapas population today. 

The Ch’olan language has similarities to both the Chontal and Chorti languages. The three languages together are believed to be the modern languages that relate to the classic Maya language the closest. The Chontal and Chorti people are also the only outside of Chiapas to speak a dialect of the Cholan language.

This was a map of where each of these cultures were located but the markers didn't transfer into the blog

Birds of the Ch’ol Maya

            I actually came across my own professor, Dr. Rob Fergus’, blog about birds from the Ch’ol Maya area.  He also spoke about the trip in class one time and showed us pictures; I remember he said all the locals were very nice.  Some of the birds he highlights in his blog that he saw are the Slate-colored Solitaire, Crimson-collared Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Striped Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Eleania, and Red-lored Parrot.  Upon further research, none of these birds are endangered or vulnerable.
            I also found a website, http://www.mexico-birding.com/chiapas.html, that offers a two week tour of Chiapas to go birding and see some of those birds.  If you have the time and money it could be a really cool way to see the scenery of Chiapas.  You also get to see some of the ancient ruins that still miraculously stand. Below are some pictures I found of birds from the area. 

Red-Legged Honeycreeper

Yellow-bellied Eleania  

 Crimson-collared Tanager

Ch’ol Maya and the Cosmos

            I couldn’t find specific information on the Ch’ol Maya and their cosmic beliefs but what I found about the Mayan people in general was pretty cool.  The Maya have always had a deep understanding of Mother Nature, Earth’s cycles, the Cosmos, and life and death. These beliefs still play an important role today when talking about the J-Men or Ix-men, or Mayan Senior Healers or Priests.  The Mayan’s belief about the Earth and the Universe was that humans were an “integral part of a living planet Earth which is in turn an integral part of the Solar Planetary System, which in turn is an integral part of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is one of the many galaxies in a known living universe filled with holographic living consciousness interconnected with the whole cosmic experience.” (Bartolome & Gordon)

            The Mayan’s vision of the cosmos is the most interesting part of their culture.  They were so intelligent about their existence on our planet.  Thousands of years ago they developed the mathematical position of zero, had a high understanding of astronomy, complex calendar systems, built incredible structures, and developed an intricate system of hieroglyphs. I can’t help but wonder how they had all of this knowledge about outer space without the technology we have today.

This is a picture of the Maya Calendar showing the end of a cycle on Dec. 21, 2012