LAII Announces Release of the K'iche' Maya Oral History Project

August 20, 2013

The UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) announces the K'iche' Maya Oral History Project, an innovative resource for students and teachers of the K'iche' Maya language. 149 oral histories narrated in K'iche' Maya are now available online for free through the LAII. The project was completed with support from the LAII's U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center grant.

The oral histories (both spoken and written components) are now publicly available to support the teaching and learning of K'iche' Maya worldwide. To learn more, visit the project website. This teaching resource furthers the LAII's interest in supporting the study and preservation of indigenous languages of Latin America.

K'iche' Maya is a language spoken by approximately one million people in the highlands of Guatemala - making it the most widely spoken of all Mayan linguistic dialects. Mayans have an extensive history of literary traditions, including notable texts such as the Popol Wuj'. In more recent decades, language has also served as a critical element of the Mayan cultural revitalization movement and the push for bilingual education in Guatemala. The project database of oral histories provides a rich means of studying this linguistic history.

The K'iche' Maya Oral History Project is a collaborative effort between the LAII and Dr. James Mondloch to preserve and disseminate 149 stories audio recorded in western Guatemala between 1968 and 1973. Mondloch, a faculty affiliate with the LAII, collected the recordings while serving as a Catholic missionary. Local residents at the time transcribed the recordings into written Spanish and K'iche' Maya.

"The K'iche' Maya Oral History Project provides a wealth of material which anthropologists, linguists, folklorists and other students of K'iche' culture and language will find useful. But the primary goal of this project is to return to the K'iche' people, especially those from Nahualá and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, the narratives, found in this collection, that they so generously shared with me over forty years ago. All of the narratives in this collection are now available for use by the K'iche's and other Mayan communities on the Internet in a digital format," said Mondloch.

Mondloch earned his Ph.D. in linguistics and anthropology from the State University of New York at Albany in 1981. Since then, he has translated and annotated several sixteenth-century K'iche' documents in collaboration with Robert M. Carmak. In 1979, his alma mater published his Basic Quiché Grammer; a second edition, Basic K'ichee' Grammar, is forthcoming from the University of Colorado Press in conjunction with the Institute for Mesoamerican Studies at the State University of New York at Albany. Additional forthcoming publications include Gramática Básica del K'ichee' (Maya' Wuj Editorial, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala, C.A.) and Popul Wuj, co-authored with Robert M. Carmack and Pakal Rodriguez (Publicaciones Mesoamericanas, Universidad Mesoamericana, Guatemala, C.A.).

For more information, visit the K'iche' Maya Oral History Project webpage, download the project press release and project flyer.