Humberto Ak'abal: Maya Poetry for Children (en español y inglés)
Written by the great Maya poet, Humberto Ak'abal, this beautiful collection of poetry has been carefully selected for younger learners.
I am so excited to have found this book and am honored to be sharing it here with you. It's really a very special collection of poetry and I think you will love sharing it with your children as much as I am enjoying sharing it with mine.
Ak'abal's beautiful poems describe his childhood and life in the Maya K'iche' village of Momostenango, Guatemala. Even though he left school at the age of 12, he always had a great love for reading and published his first book of poetry at 38 years old.
Originally written in the indigenous Maya language, K'iche' (pronounced key-CHAY), Ak'abal also translated his poems into the Spanish language.
Aquí era el paraíso is presented entirely in Spanish and English.
This collections features topics ranging from insects and birds, to village mornings and evenings. There are even some poems about ghosts!
Scattered between the different sections of poetry are beautiful illustrations by Amelia Las Carling, a Guatemalan American illustrator. Extensively traveling through the K'iche' regions of the Guatemalan highlands inspired her art.
In Ak'abal's own words he explains his ideas about being Maya, last revised in 2011:
"We are proud of being who we are without necessarily making a fuss because we carry our (Maya) languages and unconsciously we grab onto them with a feeling of belonging and with ancestral pride, because we have been formed by and alongside them. Our commitment, according to my way of seeing things, is to maintain our spontaneous relationship to our way of being, not to forget the teaching of our elders; to maintain the validity of our languages, enrich them, use them without fear or shame; to deepen our bilingualism; to return to teaching ourselves the sciences and arts of our ancestors without losing contact with the present; to call ourselves contemporary Mayas with pride. These ideas obviously lead to discussion. I hope that will be, so that we aren't only repeating what is said to us but are actors and knowers of our identity."
"Ak'abal never pretended that life in his world was easy. The history of Guatemala is complex. It has the highest Indigenous population as a percentage of any country in the Americas. And Maya people have suffered terrible discrimination, violence and poverty since the arrival of the Europeans. But Ak'abal's poems convey how all his world's elements also came together to create a deep, rich reality."
-Excerpt from the forward by Patricia Aldana