Yucatec Maya Students in Action

Sponsored by the UNC-Duke Consortium, the Yucatec Maya Summer Institute offers beginning, intermediate and advanced level instruction of modern Yucatec Maya. The courses are open to students, faculty, and the public.

The Consortium on Latin American & Caribbean Studies founded the Yucatec Maya Institute in 1992. The Institute has trained over 100 scholars from the US, Canada Europe, and Latin America.

We are pleased to share photos and a video from this year’s students. Enjoy!

VIDEO: Students practice Yucatec Maya

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New Open-Access Short Works from UNC Press and the Institute for the Study of the Americas


UNC Press contact: Gina Mahalek, 919-962-0581gina_mahalek@unc.edu

Release available at: www.ibiblio.org/uncp/media/sla 

Chapel Hill, N.C.–The University of North Carolina Press (UNCP) and the Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announce a new joint initiative in open-access scholarly publishing.

Studies in Latin America (SLA) is a new series of short works to be published by ISA and distributed by UNCP in digital open-access as well as in print and e-book formats.

Louis A. Pérez Jr., Director, Institute for the Study of the Americas, and J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of History at UNC Chapel Hill, stated, “The Studies in Latin America series is designed to meet the emerging needs of a rapidly expanding body of social science scholarship on Latin America. The idea is to provide a new venue to disseminate original research in the form of short works of approximately 20,000 up to 35,000 words in length, and thereby offer scholars an opportunity to contemplate a new genre of scholarship coupled with an effective publishing outlet not previously available. The peer-reviewed short works open-access series promises to provide scholars with a vast readership and at the same time offer highly usable classroom texts.”

The Studies in Latin America series will promote new scholarship on Latin America and the Caribbean focusing on the social sciences–principally anthropology, geography, history, political science, and sociology–and featuring diverse methodological approaches and perspectives on vital issues concerning Latin America and the Caribbean, past and present.

The Spangler Family Director at UNC Press, John Sherer, hailed the new initiative as groundbreaking. “This series, which involves a three-way partnership between the Press, ISA, and the UNC Libraries, will be our first open-access initiative. It utilizes our new digital-first workflow to efficiently publish these shorter works, while maintaining the high level of quality and broad scope of dissemination traditionally associated with UNC Press books.”

Open-access content for Studies in Latin America will be hosted on the UNC Chapel Hill Libraries website.

“I am excited about this new venture in open-access publishing,” said Sarah C. Michalak, Associate Provost and University Librarian at UNC Chapel Hill. “The UNC Libraries and the UNC Press have worked together on several scholarly publishing projects aimed at making high-quality academic content broadly available. Studies in Latin America is a creative idea that will successfully advance that important work.”

The series will launch in 2015 with an anticipated two distributed works per year.

Studies in Latin America welcomes English-language manuscripts by senior scholars as well as by junior scholars. Submissions will undergo a formal peer-review process as part of the publication decision. The Institute for the Study of the Americas and UNC Press anticipate a wide distribution of the scholarship included in Studies in Latin America by taking advantage of the digital publishing environment.

For more information and inquiries about submissions, please contact Louis A. Pérez Jr., Director, Institute for the Study of the Americas, at perez@email.unc.edu or at Global Education Center, CB 3205, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27599. Questions may also be addressed to Elaine Maisner, Senior Executive Editor, UNC Press, at emaisner@email.unc.edu or tel. 919-962-0810

Visit http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/page/863 for more information.

Founded in 1922, UNC Press is the oldest university press in the South and one of the oldest in the United States.

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Yucatec Maya Summer Institute is Underway!

We are pleased to share the first photos from this year’s Yucatec Maya Summer Institute! Students arrived safely and are excited to begin this educational journey. Sponsored by the UNC-Duke Consortium, the Yucatec Maya Summer Institute offers beginning, intermediate and advanced level instruction of modern Yucatec Maya. The courses are open to students, faculty, and the public.

Check out the photos below and read more about the instructors here.

Fidencio Briceño Chel teaches. With his research specialization on Yucatec Maya language and culture, Fidencio Briceño Chel has over fifteen years of experience teaching Yucatec Maya. As a native of Mexico, he lives and works in Yucatán Mexico. He will soon receive his PhD from the Universidad Autónoma de México and has numerous publications including “Las diferencias de ‘querer’: distinction entre verbo y auxiliar en el maya yucateco” in Tercer Congreso de Estudios Mayas and Na’at le ba’ala paalen: Adivina esta cosa niño (Adivinanzas mayas y yucatecas).

Fidencio Briceño Chel teaches. With his research specialization on Yucatec Maya language and culture, Fidencio Briceño Chel has over fifteen years of experience teaching Yucatec Maya. As a native of Mexico, he lives and works in Yucatán Mexico. He will soon receive his PhD from the Universidad Autónoma de México and has numerous publications including “Las diferencias de ‘querer’: distinction entre verbo y auxiliar en el maya yucateco” in Tercer Congreso de Estudios Mayas and Na’at le ba’ala paalen: Adivina esta cosa niño (Adivinanzas mayas y yucatecas



Students listen to their lessons from staff.


Instructors, the resident director and advisors play an important role in our Yucatec Maya Program.






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Spotlight: Reclaiming Their Deep History


InHerit forms partnerships with local organizations and schools to educate, conserve and advocate for Maya cultural heritage in the form of material remains but also native languages and traditions. Click to watch the video and learn about McAnany’s work

A May 2, 2014 article by Natalie Vizuete featured the work and inspiration of a current project regarding Maya civilization. It started when UNC archaeologist Patricia McAnany was approached by a school girl in Central America who asked her, “why did all the Maya have to die?” For McAnany, the question sparked a grander observation of how alienated indigenous Maya people must have felt, and how far removed they may feel from their distant past.

Read the entire text (also below): http://unc.edu/spotlight/reclaiming-their-deep-history/

Watch the video by Rob Holliday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkKR_BI0VFU

Reclaiming their deep history 

Story by Natalie Vizuete and video by Rob Holliday of University Relations

A question from a school girl in Central America has indirectly led to tens of thousands of Maya people connecting with their distant heritage in a new and engaging way, thanks to UNC archaeologist Patricia McAnany.

McAnany was working at the site of an ancient Maya settlement in northern Belize nearly two decades ago when the young girl caught McAnany off guard.

“The little girl looked up at me and asked ‘why did all the Maya have to die?’” McAnany recalls. She fumbled for an answer about the past Maya civilization, which once dominated portions of Mexico and Central America before its mysterious collapse. For McAnany, the question was indicative of how alienated indigenous Maya people must have felt. Researchers from around the world had studied Maya history while Maya peoples, now relegated to second-class citizens in their own lands, often felt far removed from their distant past.

McAnany, Kenan Eminent Professor of Anthropology, returned to the issue years later. During her research in the Maya region, she had seen ancient Maya settlements and artifacts destroyed or stolen. She also saw that Maya heritage was fading. A private family foundation interested in halting the looting of Maya artifacts and improving the lives of descendant Maya people offered McAnany a grant to develop projects that would engage Maya people in the work she and others were doing.

McAnany’s research and work stemming from that grant led to the award of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. As part of the fellowship, McAnany is writing a book, “Heritage without Irony: Transcultural Dialogue at a Busy Intersection.” The irony, she says, is that Maya peoples have a very valorized past yet live in a stigmatized present.

The book will focus on the programs of InHerit: Indigenous Heritage Passed to Present, an organization that she co-founded at UNC. InHerit forms partnerships with local organizations and schools to educate, conserve and advocate for Maya cultural heritage in the form of material remains but also native languages and traditions. Building equal opportunity for Maya peoples to manage and participate in research about their past is a central tenet of InHerit programs.

For example, a group of grade-school students in western Honduras participated in the excavation of a recently abandoned house as a way to learn about archaeological techniques. In a project in Guatemala, Maya people are creating maps of their communities—including sacred sites. The maps document the location, cultural significance and oral histories that go along with places that have been used over many centuries. The maps also give archaeologists a sense of cultural values and priorities on a very local context. “It gives us a level of understanding that is just not possible if you are in a relationship of researcher and the researched,” McAnany says.

In addition, InHerit has developed school curriculum that uses examples and concepts from Maya archaeology and heritage and produced a film of Yucatec Mayan-speaking marionettes that features two siblings on a mission to learn more about their ancestors. InHerit also sponsors grant competitions – one that challenges local communities throughout the Maya region to propose plans for heritage conservation and another that encourages archaeologists to work with Maya peoples on cultural heritage projects.

“Communities with which we work all have very intense feelings and knowledge about their histories and so their history is not unknown to them. What we do is provide a space for a dialogue about a more distant time that is sometimes archaeologically driven and sometimes not,” McAnany says. “People often ask me ‘are you giving people back their history,’ and no, that’s not what we are doing. We are making different kinds of educational and research opportunities available to people that they wouldn’t have had before, but people already have a very strong sense of their history.”

Another important part of the work is that it may help prevent the looting of Maya artifacts. In areas of high poverty, there is a temptation to loot and sell artifacts, even though it is illegal. McAnany says empowering Maya people—who live nearby thousands of vulnerable archaeological sites—is the only way to stop the looting and enhance conservation of Maya archaeological sites.

“They are on the ground and they are the stewards, the local stewards of these landscapes on which archaeological sites are situated, and they are the ones who ultimately will be able to save them,” McAnany says.

Published May 2, 2014.

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Congratulations to Phi Beta Kappa Initiate, Simone Duval!

198906_10150098050116710_698046709_6753906_2476709_nWe would like to offer congratulations to Simone Duval, a 2014 Journalism and Latin American Studies double-major from Shaker Heights, Ohio, who will be initiated into Alpha of North Carolina Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Duval will be initiated at the Spring initiation ceremony, which will be held on April 14, 2014.

Simone is fluent in Spanish, and has had various experiences working with research, the media and with Spanish-speaking populations. Simone is also the DJ for Radio Latijam for summer 2013; Radio Latijam is a community Spanish language radio program based in Carrboro and sponsored by the UNC School of Journalism. The program’s goal is to cater to Latino youth in the community.

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and most honored college honorary society. Membership is open to undergraduates in the college and professional degree programs who meet stringent eligibility requirements. A student who has completed 75 hours of course work with a GPA of 3.85 or better (on a 4-point scale) is eligible for membership. Also eligible is any student who has completed 105 hours of course work in the liberal arts and sciences with a 3.75 GPA. Grades earned at other universities are not considered. Less than 1 percent of all college students qualify.

Past and present Phi Beta Kappa members from across the country have included 17 American presidents and numerous artistic, intellectual and political leaders. Seven of the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices are members. Phi Beta Kappa has 280 chapters nationwide. UNC’s chapter, Alpha of North Carolina, was founded in 1904 and is the oldest of seven chapters in the state.

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Garcia to examine how black music’s African origins was understood in mid-20th century

UNC associate professor of music David Garcia will examine how black music’s African origins was understood in the mid-20th century with a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

The grant will support Garcia’s book project, “The Logic of Black Music’s Africa Origins: Music, Africa and Race in the Mid-Twentieth Century.”

Click here to read the whole article


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Vargas wants students to leave with “cultural competence”

As of July 2012, people of Latino origin were the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority, constituting 17 percent of the nation’s total population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But, despite decades of a growing Latino population, you can probably count the faculty teaching Latino studies around the country on your fingers, said Lucila Vargas.

She is one of them. And through Latijam – Latino journalism and media at Carolina – Vargas has been working to build a new generation that understands how to write about – and for – the Latino community around them.

“The field is growing and so is the Latino population. How can you cover a group you don’t understand?” Vargas said. “That need increases, and not only in North Carolina. If you take a job in Texas, you’re going to need this.”

Despite an increasing presence in American life, Vargas has seen efforts to cover Latino issues come and go, showing momentary interest in the culture. She wants there to be dependable, consistent coverage that is absent of the negative stereotypes that still permeate the media.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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Fredy Grefa: From the Ecuadorian Amazon to Chapel Hill

Fredy Grefa with his son, Yutzu, walking on the UNC campus.

Fredy Grefa with his son, Yutzu, walking on the UNC campus.

It’s a long way geographically from the small town of Coca, Ecuador, located in the Amazon rainforest, to Chapel Hill.

But it’s a long journey symbolically too — one that Fredy Grefa, a current master’s student in UNC’s city and regional planning department, knows all too well.

Grefa grew up in Coca and is a member of the indigenous Quechua (Kichwa) culture. When oil companies began moving into the region in the 1970s, development happened very fast.

“There were a lot of issues related to land rights, environmental issues and societal impacts,” Grefa said. “Indigenous people were losing their land and being assimilated rapidly by Western society.”

Grefa knew he wanted to help his people, to figure out a way to encourage oil companies to give them a voice in decision-making.

His dad told him that in order to have opportunities in life that he needed to get an education.

Read the entire article here: http://college.unc.edu/2013/12/10/fredy/

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Global Heels: Francisco Laguna-Correa, Mexico

Francisco Laguna-Correa. Photo by Kim Strong.

Francisco Laguna-Correa. Photo by Kim Strong.

Francisco Laguna-Correa is a PhD student in Hispanic studies and 19th century cultural studies, with a focus on Mexico. He is enrolled in the Department of Romance Languages in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences.

Where are you from and what is your country known for?

I am from Mexico City, a place known for many positive and negative stereotypes. I personally think of my city as a metropolis where you can find anything that you can imagine, from surreal bookstores and recondite restaurants to social demonstrations and significant social inequalities.

What languages do you speak?  I have studied several languages since middle school, including Latin, Greek, French, Italian, German and English. Thanks to the Institute for the Study of the Americas at Carolina, I was able to spend last summer at Yale University studying Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, which currently has more than three million native speakers throughout Mexico.

Why did you choose to study in the United States? And why at UNC?

I earned two Master’s degrees (one in philosophy and another in social anthropology) at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain. While I was in Madrid, I heard about Duke University, but after looking at the profiles of the faculty of Duke and UNC I decided that UNC was the better choice for me, mostly because the UNC Romance languages faculty carries out research that aligns with my intellectual interests. In fact, UNC was my top choice because I wanted to work with Juan Carlos González-Espitia, associate professor of Spanish.

What unique perspectives do you feel you bring to your classrooms as an international student?

I feel that my experience as a transnational student helps me to bring different intellectual perspectives and methodologies to the classroom. I started my college studies in Mexico City at the National University of Mexico (UNAM), where I acquired a passion for intellectual and social resistance, and, foremost, to pursue a more egalitarian distribution of power in our societies. Besides UNAM, I have studied at the University of Barcelona, Portland State University, the Autonomous University of Madrid, and now at UNC-Chapel Hill. Throughout all of these years of study, I have met and worked with many professors and fellow students, and this has allowed me to become more aware of the multiplicity of backgrounds and life experiences that can converge in our societies.

Which course at UNC have you enjoyed the most and why?

I really enjoyed the seminars “Poïesis in Latin American” taught by Juan Carlos González-Espitia, associate professor of Spanish, and “Indigenous Literatures in Latin America” taught by Emilio del Valle-Escalante, associate professor of Spanish. Both of these professors were able to transmit a deep passion for the subjects while engaging the class in crucial discussions about the past and future of the Latin American societies (including the United States).

What do you like best about UNC, and how is it different from universities in your home country?

I really like the funding opportunities that UNC offers to graduate students. In Mexico, these opportunities go almost exclusively to faculty.

What do you like best about living in Chapel Hill, and how is it different from your hometown?

Mexico City is very big and hectic most of the time, with something different to do every day. For instance, you can find a book presentation almost daily in Mexico City. Chapel Hill is quieter, thus offering more time to rest and study without many distractions. I also write fiction, so the suburban setting of Chapel Hill provides me with the time to work on my creative writing. Since I entered UNC, I have received three major literary awards, including the National Literary Prize of the North American Academy of the Spanish Language (ANLE) in 2012 for my book of flash-fictions Finales felices, and the International Poetry Prize “Desiderio Macías Silva” for my “broken novel” Ría Brava/Ría Grande, awarded by the Mexican publishing house Azafran y Cinabrio.

What have been the most significant challenges in adjusting to life in Chapel Hill and as a student at UNC?

I am used to and enjoy living in big cities, where you see lots of buildings and tons of cars, where you breathe and feel the burst of energy in the streets. Chapel Hill is an ideal place to devote yourself to your studies, but it lacks the combustion and intensity of a metropolis.

Which campus activities do you most enjoy at UNC?

I really enjoy going to the concerts organized by Carolina Performing Arts, the venue is great and the artists that UNC brings are internationally recognized. This is a great opportunity that UNC offers to us, and as a student you can get tickets for just $10 dollars. I have already bought tickets for this season and I will be attending four concerts during the fall semester, including a performance by Wynton Marsalis.

If you could introduce student activities from your hometown to UNC students, what would they be?

At the National University of Mexico students are definitely more politically involved. We used to organize peaceful demonstrations and write petitions on a regular basis, sometimes every week. I wish that UNC undergrads were more interested and involved in the social and political issues that affect our community, not just in the Chapel Hill area, but also in Durham and Raleigh. There are lots of social inequalities that I believe college students can attempt to address while in school. It is not necessary to finish our studies before we try to make a change in our societies.

Why should international students consider attending UNC? What advice would you offer an incoming international student?

Students overseas should consider coming to UNC because it is a top notch public institution that fosters innovative research in both the humanities and sciences. The UNC campus is beautiful, it has an old touch, however the facilities are modern and well-equipped. UNC also offers many great opportunities to international students, such as funding, study groups, and research activities amongst others.

What are you currently reading?

Besides the readings that I do to prepare for my oral and written exams, I am also reading False Stories by the Angolan writer Gonçalo Tavares and Pájaros en la boca by Argentinean Samanta Schweblin.

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Guanajuato Connections: Experiencing the global South

guileBeyond the headlines and policy papers about Mexican immigrants are the lives of men and women, boys and girls. Helping Carolina students better understand the human complexities of immigration is the mission of UNC’s Latino Migration Project.

The Project builds ties between Chapel Hill and the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, where many North Carolina immigrants have originated. It offers UNC students two programs — APPLES Global Course Guanajuato and Project Guanajuato — which provide a “transformative experience” involving service learning, global travel, internships and the development of close ties between UNC students, local immigrants and their families in Mexico, according to Hannah Gill, director of the Project.

Guile Contreras ’14 (photographed above), whose parents are from El Salvador, grew up in Siler City, N.C. He participated in Project Guanajuato the summer after his first year at Carolina and became a trip leader the following summer.

“Students who go through Project Guanajuato get a new image of Mexico,” says Contreras. “In the long term, they have a better understanding of immigrants and why people emigrate, beyond [just] talking about it in class.”

Read the entire article here: http://magazine.college.unc.edu/2013/09/guanajuato/


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