August 4, 2015
Support from the AIA Site Preservation Grant is allowing us to undertake several large projects at Tahcabo this summer. These include the development of a heritage room focused on the history and traditions of Tahcabo, to encourage children to engage creatively with the past by designing and performing their own puppet shows, and to lay the groundwork for locally supervised heritage conservation through the formation of a village heritage committee.
We started our summer season with an opening reception in the center of town. We reviewed our work from the last season, outlined goals for the current season, and then asked for questions and feedback from townspeople. The meeting provided an opportunity to renew the friendships that we’ve developed in the community over the last few years.
We also spent several mornings in the secondary school, introducing the students to the marionettes and describing the process of story selection, script creation, and set design. Students particularly enjoyed the chance to make the marionettes dance! The students spoke with their grandparents about tales and traditions of Tahcabo and decided to write two plays: one about a Cha Chaak ceremony to bring rain and another about Dios de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
An additional activity was a house-to-house survey of town residents in which we asked opinions related to cultural heritage of the village and perceptions of collaborative archaeology. We spent several days documenting people’s stories, interests, and concerns. Most importantly we asked community members about the themes and objects they would like included in the heritage room, and if they had any family materials they would like to contribute. The responses to this survey not only gave us a better sense of the narrative to construct in the heritage room, but also reinforce the fact that the community heritage room is truly a space for the community. We are excited to watch the heritage room take shape over the summer!
About the project: The Collaborative Archaeology Project of Eastern Yucatan (PACOY – Proyecto Arqueológico Colaborativo del Oriente de Yucatán in Spanish) is a holistic research program that combines collaborative community research methods with archaeological and archival information in order to reconstruct the histories of towns in eastern Yucatan, Mexico. Our research is based in Tahcabo, a village of approximately 500 people located 40km north of Valladolid. Due to the participatory nature of our research, we engage in an extended process of consultation and community involvement in decisions related to the research design and content. In addition to reconstructing local histories, our goal is to initiate a dialogue about the significance of local heritage, and to encourage villagers to develop a sense of pride and empowerment in the interpretation and conservation of heritage in their community.