Indigenous Peoples' Day, 2018
A few months ago, those of us in the area of Theology and Spirituality of the Institute for Intercultural Study and Research here in Chiapas were discussing the vision with which we live our individual and collective lives. jPetul (Peter in the Tseltal Mayan language) explained the Mayan concept of "lekil kuxlejal," which means to be well and at peace with oneself, one's family and community and with mother earth. To have "lekil kuxlejal" one must have a heart that has been healed and strengthened. Our work at the Institute is to provide a safe space to explore how "lekil kuxlejal" looks today with all the social, cultural, political, and religious challenges the people of Chiapas, including the Mayan people, face today.
Elena, my "tocaya" (which in Spanish means we share the same name), has welcomed me into her home where three generations of women transform threads into collective works of art. They teach me embroidery patterns in the ancient way of the Mayan women. We share our stories while we work. Elena reminds me that we must dare to look at and name the shadows of her Mayan heritage as well as enjoying and exploring the unique light that culture shines into this world. She dreams of creating a tapestry of dignity where identity, understanding, equality, freedom, justice, and hope come together in culturally recognizable patterns.
Together we recognize the shadows in the voices of Mayan girls and women:
- "My uncle says why waste money on my education since I will soon be married. In the meantime, I can work." A 10 year old Mayan girl
- "My opinion is not important. Speaking out will bring shame to my community." A middle-aged Mayan woman
- "True Mayan women only need to know how to weave, carry firewood, and make tortillas." A Mayan woman in her twenties who is single
How do we bring the ecological, wholeness and healing, creative, justice, dignity, and liberating values of "lekil kuxlejal" into the daily lives of women and children living on the margins of the margins? My tocaya, Elena, explains the vision this way: Lekil kuxlejal is an invitation to walk, it is the path and it is the destination. It is the starting point, the way of getting there and the dream to be reached. We invite our people to remember what the grandmothers and grandfathers have known about how to live a good life and what life-destroying actions need to be named personally, locally and systemically. We explore and practice small steps, and then larger and firmer ones, to care for ourselves, others and the earth. We live into the dream of harmony and peace while sustaining justice, truth and mercy. Our true nature, our healing path, is lekil kuxlejal.
Elena Huegel serves as a Mission Co-worker with the Intercultural Research and Studies Institute (INESIN), Chiapas, Mexico. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, OGHS, and your special gifts.