The Mayan Esteem Project is based around an archaelological site near Chilón, Chiapas, Mexico. The founding principle of the project is to excavate and restore a Mayan city from the late classical period (around 900 AD) Forty years ago the site was looted and has left a cultural legacy of mistrust with the Tzeltal people that inhabit the area. This project is a cultural project to restore the damage that has been done and reclaim artifacts that were stolen.
Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico. There are about six million indigenous people in Chiapas that basically constitute the modern Mayan population. This area is highly agricultural with few urban centers such as Tuxtla Gutierez (the capital), San Cristobal de las Casas, Palenque and Ocosingo.
Chilón is a village of approximately 5,000 people whose major occupation is agriculture: primarily coffee, corn and livestock. There is virtually no industry in Chiapas with the exception of some oil production and mining to the North and some light and heavy industry in Tuxtla Gutierez. Many rural households operate without the benefit of electricity or modern plumbing.
This agrarian society is struggling with the encroachment of industrialized society of the centrist Federal District as well as tourism in the northern most part of the state, which is centered around restored Mayan ruins in Palenque, and to a further extent in the state of Campeche. The heavy geographic prohibitions of the heavily eroded steep mountains create a natural boundary around several modern language groups in this area, which is the basis for academic interest. The sense is that patterns of language development follow similarities when confined by these types of boundaries; so does economic development.
Much can be done to shepherd an agrarian society through industrial encroachment by means of the exchange of ideas. Ideas are a commodity this community can afford. Military occupation has created the general tensions associated with the presence of imposed authority. Autonomy is often discussed and has culminated in a rebellion faction that has maintained popular support since the token seizure of a city's government in January 1994. No real battles have ensued but the dispute is often termed, "low-intensity warfare," which might have some validity, exemplified by town-level and state cooperation in what is called the Acteal Massacre after some 25 individuals were hacked and killed on December 23, 1997.
Political involvement is not what the Mayan Esteem Project is selling. Creating a market of ideas in a climate of peace is usually better weather for other markets.
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