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Maya, Garifuna, Pipil

Discuss culture, living, traveling, relocating, dating or anything related to Latin America, Mexico, or Central America.

Moderators: jamesbond, fschmidt

Maya, Garifuna, Pipil

Postby mehendicant » Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:01 pm

I'm thinking of taking a trip to Central America. Do any of you have experience with these peoples?
*What are the women like?
*How fun is it to learn the language? (I already speak Spanish.)
*What would a woman of one of these peoples think of moving to the US and raising kids speaking her indigenous language as well as others?
*Which of these do you recommend? If Maya, which kind of Maya?
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Postby Falcon » Thu Apr 05, 2012 5:38 am

I've had great experiences with indigenous Mexican women (see http://www.happierabroad.com/forum/view ... hp?t=12355 ). Their demeanors can be very different from those of mestiza women. Indigenous women do flirt, but in different ways. They tend to smile, blush, look away, and then giggle. Or they might gently look you in the eyes for a long time and give you a sweet, mysterious smile. This is not the more aggressive type of hands-on flirting typical of the mestizos, but it's flirting nonetheless, except more modest and less hands-on. This was how I've been flirted with by several very cute indigenous girls in southern Mexico. This kind of gentle hands-off flirting really melts your heart! :P

However, some peoples, such as the Triquis of Oaxaca, require the men to pay dowries of thousands of dollars. Make sure you know about all of their local marriage customs!

- The languages are fun, and very challenging to learn. Mayan verbs can be especially complicated, even for experienced linguists.
- Mayan languages are spoken mostly in Chiapas (the southernmost state of Mexico) and Guatemala.
- Most Mayan peoples have relatives in the U.S. and are used to the idea of migration. The local men will often tell you, "Lleva una muchacha pa' alla / pa'l otro lado!" (Take a girl with you to the other side!)
- Garifuna is an Arawakan (Native American) language spoken in and around Belize. Many speakers have mostly African descent though.
- Pipil is basically the Salvadorean variant of Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Sadly, Pipil-speaking peoples are now hard to find due to decades of genocides and cultural suppression.
- I would not recommend any ethnic group over another. You choices should be based on their levels of acculturation, and so on.
- I would highly recommend getting to know the men first, both the locals in Central America and migrants in the U.S. Then get to know the women later.
- Try the local bailes or dances too. Here's what they are like in Mexico (the music is called norteño):

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0AMLZ9OYjw[/youtube]

Traditionally, Guatemalan dance in circles, although there are many norteño-style dances too, like in the Mexican dance video above. The music is called marimba.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfvdnnHubkY[/youtube]
Last edited by Falcon on Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby mehendicant » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:37 am

Once I was on the bus and I heard someone behind me speaking a language I couldn't make head or tail of. I asked her what language she was speaking (after she finished the phone call, of course). "Mam," she answered. "Mam ... ¿es maya?" "Sí."

I looked up "tlacuache" (I knew it's the same kind of animal as zarigüeya, but forgot what animal it is) and found that it's called "tacuacín" in Honduras. Both words are from the same Aztecan root. That suggests that there may be Pipiles in Honduras as well. (Wiktionary lists the spelling "tacuazín" for SV, but 'z' before 'e' or 'i' almost always changes to 'c', so that's an aberrant spelling.)

So how should I proceed:
*Contact pastors in the area?
*Ask people I know who are from southern MX, BZ, GT, or SV if they can recommend a place to visit and someone to meet me there? I know a family from Oaxaca and several Salvadorans and have relatives in SV, but don't know anyone from the other countries.
*Wait till my travel-GF returns my call? She's the one who turned me on to Garinagu; she's visited Belize several times.
*Just go somewhere by myself?

"Ashan welit Nawat anka sejse tzunti takamet wan siwatket, anka maya sejse pual." (Still speak Nawat maybe a few four-hundred men and women, maybe just a few twenties.)
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Postby Falcon » Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:55 am

So how should I proceed:
*Contact pastors in the area?
*Ask people I know who are from southern MX, BZ, GT, or SV if they can recommend a place to visit and someone to meet me there? I know a family from Oaxaca and several Salvadorans and have relatives in SV, but don't know anyone from the other countries.
*Wait till my travel-GF returns my call? She's the one who turned me on to Garinagu; she's visited Belize several times.
*Just go somewhere by myself?


I would highly recommend #2 and #4 (asking people from Central America, and going by yourself). Contacting pastors is also an excellent way to get to know local families and villages. I don't know how well you know your travel GF, but personally I believe there is no need for her to accompany you.

I know Mam people here in the United States. In Guatemala, you'll find them in Huehuetenango and San Marcos.

Anyways, here's a Guatemalan dance where everyone is dancing norteño-style. Note how the men dress in Mexican cowboy attire, while the women wear traditional Mayan dresses.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xBSeE0d9NY[/youtube]
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Postby mehendicant » Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:59 am

I think I'd like to visit Guate, but I don't know anyone from there, so I'll see if I can contact pastors. This will be a bit tricky, as there's only one church listed in the directory, but there's also a mission, which apparently has several churches found. When I email the church or the mission, what should I say about my purpose?
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Postby Falcon » Thu Apr 19, 2012 9:37 pm

machine wrote:so amazing! I hope you could do it better! Yes?


Do you by any chance export your grains packaging machines to Guatemala, yaar? That could be useful for some of our would-be expats who would like to make a living in Central America.
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Postby mehendicant » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:00 am

I just contacted the mission in Guatemala about an hour before sunset.

I pulled up the Wikitravel page about Guatemala and it says there's a lot of mugging and robbery there. What areas would you suggest safetywise?

(Machine was a spammer; his post has been deleted.)
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Postby adria2789 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 5:59 am

Hello mehendicant,

I can't answer your questions but I'm sure Falcon can/has :)

Just an FYI, there is a Garifuna population in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala...a seaport in the eastern coast.

http://wikitravel.org/en/Puerto_Barrios

It is the hometown of Deborah David, she appeared in the music video for La Negra Tiene Tumbao by Celia Cruz hahaha 8) She is a Guatemalan model of Garifunan descent.

There is also Livingston, around the same area as Puerto Barrios. It also has Garifuna people as well as Mayan, Ladino and Afro Carribean people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livingston,_Guatemala
"Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures." - Cesar Chavez
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Postby Falcon » Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:12 am

Guatemala is actually safer than you think it is. I've talked to people who have been to Guatemala, as well as Guatemalan immigrants here in the U.S., and they all think it's a relatively safe and fun place to go to. The Western Highlands, where the Mayan communities are concentrated, is generally a safe area, as the people there are very well-behaved, hard-working, humble, and religious. Some simple tips and precautions:

- Some zones of Guatemala City can be dangerous at nighttime, so try to stay inside your hotel room after sunset. Those include some parts of downtown and some poorer regions on the outskirts of Guatemala.
- Wandering around remote parts of the Petén (northern Guatemalan jungle) by yourself is not recommended, since bandits can potentially set you up for kidnapping and robbery, with no help nearby.
- Do not show any jewelry at all, and do not look touristy. Cheap digital point-and-shoot cameras are recommended.
- Try not to talk about politics, the civil war, or the genocide, as these topics can make people very upset. Human rights activists and politicians continue to have their lives being threatened in Guatemala.
- Yes, there are criminal gangs and narcos, but they mostly fight among themselves. Don't talk about them either.
- Do not recklessly take pictures of indigenous peoples without their permissions. That is often seen as rude, inconsiderate, and violating their privacy.
- Do not touch or hold any babies or toddlers without the parents' explicit permissions. Guatemalans can be very paranoid about this due to rampant child kidnapping and trafficking of minors. In Huehuetenango Department, a Japanese tourist was actually killed by a mob for caressing a baby, which horrified the mother and incited an angry mob that got out of control.
- Do not wear very dark colors in traditional indigenous Mayan communities, or dress too differently (e.g., shorts, funny hats, too much facial hair, etc). Due to cultural reasons, dull, dark clothing can sometimes repel them and make them feel suspicious of you, so wear shirts with brighter colors.
- Speak in 100% Spanish with a good Latin American accent, and when you do need to speak English, do so as little as possible. When approached in English, reply in Spanish. Locals tend to equate English usage with dollar signs. Also, extremely outgoing men who speak a lot of English are sometimes deported criminals from the U.S.


Guatemala gets over a million tourists every year, and almost all of them don't have any problems there. It is a lot less developed than Mexico, which is evident in their bus system - Mexico has very posh and upscale buses that run on well-paved federal highways, while Guatemala still has a lot of "chicken buses" that run on windy dirt roads through the mountains.

As for El Salvador and Honduras, the MS-13 is indeed dangerous, but the American media exaggerates a lot of it. Most tourists in El Salvador and Honduras also get by just fine when basic precautions are taken.

I might go to Guatemala some time in the near future, depending on how busy I am going to be at school. Have fun! :D
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Postby Falcon » Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:43 am

My Guatemalan immigrant friends have told me that apart from festivals, people in the Western Highlands listen to more Mexican music than to native Guatemalan marimba music! Here's how they have fun.


In a Mam-speaking town:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixUU3HMSm2Y[/youtube]

In a K'iche'-speaking town:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyEplG38CL0[/youtube]
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Postby mehendicant » Tue May 01, 2012 4:07 am

^^What about my Flexis? I don't want to go walking around with my hair loose.

I guess you mean the Guatemalan civil war, which I know nothing about. And the genocide would be a hot button topic if I were talking with Pipiles in El Salvador, but why in Guatemala?

What is too much facial hair? I usually keep my beard tucked in my shirt. Should I buy clothes when I get there?

If I land at La Aurora, how should I get to Western Highlands? Should I take another plane?

^What kind of music do they play? (My computer is not set up for videos.) Should I bring an instrument?
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Postby Falcon » Tue May 01, 2012 4:56 am

- Hundreds of thousands of Mayans have been killed in Guatemala, especially in the 1980's, similar to what Pol Pot and Stalin had done. Women and children were massacred in various Mayan towns, which is a key characteristic of genocides around the world (i.e., killing off the women and children to exterminate the population).

- ... Your beard tucked in your shirt? Seems that you're saying you have a long beard. It should be stubby at most. Same goes if you have long hair. Not saying that it's bad, but that Guatemalans and other more traditional rural Latinos tend to equate such styles with being unhygienic and unkempt.

- From Guatemala City, it's very easy to get all around the country by bus. You might only need a plane if you're going to the northern lowland jungles of El Petén.

- Guatemalans like marimbas (wooden xylophones) a lot, and it's their national instrument. They also like regional Mexican music, which basically consists of accordions, guitars, keyboards, and trumpets. Definitely do bring an instrument if you can play one, since that sets you apart from everyone else and is a great conversation starter. GuitarGuy998 brought his guitar to India and impressed the locals with it. I often bring my musical instruments down to Mexico.
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Postby mehendicant » Wed May 02, 2012 3:18 am

I have a concertina and play it regularly, so I could easily fit in with accordions. I don't have a marimba but could pick out a tune on one.

My main concern with taking a bus from Guatemala City to the highlands is safety. When I land, I'll have a laptop, a concertina, and a suitcase. That's a lot of encumbrance points, and if there are any dangerous people around, I could get some hit points. Once I find lodging in the highlands, if I wanted to go to Guate with minimal stuff to carry, I shouldn't be such a target.

I got a reply from the mission; they told me to contact someone else about churches in Maya areas.
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Postby Falcon » Wed May 02, 2012 5:05 am

Definitely do bring your concertina then! It's always much easier to make friends if you bring a musical instrument. There's very little chance you'll be mugged like that in a bus, so there's no need to worry, even with all that stuff.
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