Glipses of Maya Ways of Life in Tulum: Mamá Maya’s Response to my Yoga Practice

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This will be the first of a series of glipses from my ethnographic eye. I choose to give you small unanalysed stories from my fieldwork that I find have something interesting about them. Remark that I write Maya Ways (plural). I want to underline that there are many ways to to be, feel or act Maya. Unlike what many believe, there is a flourishing culture of people who define themselves as Maya, and I find it important that we recognize their own explanations of Maya identity rather that putting them into a box of what we believe Mayas are supposed to be like. Feel free to comment below.

The air of the kitchen was thick from the smoke from the fireplace. Chicken were being roasted. Mamá, a 70 old self-proclaimed “mayita”, and two of her daughters were sitting on low wooden stools by a low and round wooden table. They had two regular chairs in the house, but they were rarely used. The family members often pointed towards the tall chairs, when they asked me to sit. However, I prefer to be on the same level as people I talk to.

“What have you done today?” they asked. I told them I had done yoga in my appartment, and that I had read a bit. Mamá’s eyes and smile lit up. “You do yoga in your room?” she asked. She told me that sometimes she did yoga with other women her age in the Municipial park, where it was free.

When the chicken were done it was time to make tortillas. The women each took a piece of the dough that was placed in the middle of the table, pressed it flat on a piece of plastic, and then in one move clasped and turned it to more it more flat and round. I asked if I could try, and they let me. After having made two tortillas, I was asked to give my stool to one of the daughters. I guess I was not fast enough. Mamá placed the tortillas on the comal (a clay pan) on the fire, and after a while she put them one by one directly on the fire, which made them blow up until she hit them against the table which gave the same effect as when a balloon is punctuated. The daughters made the dough ready and threw it towards Mamá. If tortillamaking had been a sport, they would definately be in the top ligue. The women explained that home made food was the best; it did not have chemicals unlike food you buy in the stores.

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