TODOS SANTOS CUCHUMATAN
The municipal center of Todos Santos is a Mayan community of mostly Mam-speaking people lying in the heart of a steep valley at about 2,500 meters in the Cuchumatán Mountains of northwest Guatemala ( photo of rainbow over "downtown" area). The town is about two hours away by bus from the departmental (state) capital of Huehuetenango. The municipal lands slope downward to the west towards Chiapas and climb sharply out of a river valley north and east to a high plateau of over 3,500 meters in elevation. Remnants of tropical cloud forest can still be found in some remote areas near the southern limits of the municipality. Temperatures are quite cool in most areas, especially at the higher elevations. There is a pronounced rainy season which usually lasts from around May to September.
Most Todosanteros are very hardworking and relatively self-sufficient. While nearly everyone is a native speaker of Mam, many people, especially in the municipal center, are also quite fluent in Spanish. Large numbers of people travel to the United States for employment. The money and cultural influences they bring home are rapidly transforming the community. Most women are accomplished weavers and the artistic expression seen in their brocade work is often extraordinary. Women personally create most of their families' clothing as well as produce beautiful textiles for sale to others in town and tourists. Most significantly, they tend to be exceptionally attentive and devoted mothers (mother and baby are virtually inseparable during infancy). Women do all this while preparing tortillas, cooking meals, tending animals, washing clothes and a host of other chores. Men crochet elaborate handbags (pa', or "net" in Mam) when not occupied in their fields growing corn, potatoes, beans, squash, and numerous other crops or hauling wood from the surrounding mountains. Most people are in exceptional physical condition due to the rigorous nature of their daily routines combined with the region's relatively high elevation. On market day, families and individuals hike to the municipal center for as many as 4-5 hours across rugged terrain that varies from between roughly 1,300-3,500 meters in elevation. Due to the wide range of ecosystems in the municipio, market goers can purchase freshly harvested produce from the lowlands like bananas and coffee while shopping for potatoes from the altiplano. While most Todosanteros consider themselves to be Catholic, at least a third belong to one of several Protestant denominations in the region. Elements of Mayan cosmology pervade everyday life while the ceremonies of Mayan costumbre have become less conspicuous.
The municipality is famous for its yearly celebrations centered around All Saints' Day on November 1. Recall that the Spanish name of the town is Todos Santos, or "all saints." The fiesta features a spectacular horse race which is the culmination of elaborate preparations. Most significantly, during this time, the spirits of the ancestors are honored in the town cemetery. There are traditional dances along with marimba music, feasts, and other entertainment.
Maya have lived continuously in this valley since long before the Spanish invasion. There are at least two ruins sites in the municipality. One is in the "lowland" village of San Martín. The other is just above the town center and is know as Qman txun,"our father lime," the white stone being symbolic of things holy and pure. Costumbre ceremonies are still sometimes held next to the two crosses and upon the largest pyramid which are at the heart of the ruins complex.
Todosanteros are sometimes agreeable to having their photos taken in spite of the occasional inconsiderate behavior of tourists. Out of common respect, be sensitive to people's feelings and take the time to get to know them before asking permission for a photo. Many people appreciate being sent a copy of their photo in the mail.
We on the Board have a strong spirit for working to obtain improvements for the Library, benefits that will carry over to the children of Todos Santos and the town in general. Due to our lack of reference books for the students, we find ourselves in the task of seeking help from outside institutions and individuals. The lack of equipment and other resources in the library hinders student research. We are seeking donations of books as well as funds for acquisitions and improving the librarian's salary.
For more information or to make a
donation, please contact:
Presidente, Comité de la Biblioteca
Todos Santos Cuchumatán 13015
de Desarrollo Integral
The Institution focuses its community development efforts primarily in three areas: drinking water , reforestation , and programs for women.
Drinking water projects - While there are a number of natural springs in the region, they generally are located quite far from people's homes. The IMDI supports neighborhood associations and residents of small hamlets in constructing cement holding tanks and distribution networks to bring drinkable water from springs high up in the mountains directly to family dwellings. The months of intensive labor needed for implementing these drinking water projects are provided voluntarily by the community members themselves. The projects are complemented by IMDI's active promotion of latrine construction and programs for domestic waste awareness. The IMDI has also built several municipal clothes washing areas for communal use ( photo).
Reforestation projects - Most Todosanteros depend on wood for all cooking, building materials, furnishings, and bathing (almost all homes have an earthen sauna called a chuj). As a result, there is a vital need to maintain and rebuild healthy forests in the region. The IMDI is the primary sponsor of a large nursery in the municipal center of Todos Santos that currently produces over 100,000 seedlings per year and employs three full time workers ( photo of tat Desiderio, the project head, in front of the main tree nursery). It also supports several smaller nurseries in outlying communities and 3 in the neighboring municipality of San Juan Atitán) as well as carrying out over 25 educational presentations each year in local schools and neighboring villages. The reforestation project focuses on the planting of native species and actively discourages chemical based agriculture in favor of organic methods. The IMDI also promotes the use of more efficient stoves instead of open cooking fires on the house floor.
Women's projects - The IMDI makes a special effort to organize and support women through the sponsorship of micro businesses such as bakery and weaving cooperatives.
Currently the IMDI gratefully receives support from CAUSE Canada, Club Rotario de Huehuetenango and the Alliance for International Reforestation. However, additional support is greatly needed and would be thoroughly appreciated.
Funds are particularly needed at present for the construction of rain water collection systems for people living up on the altiplano where water resources are extremely limited.
For more information or to send a
contribution please write:
Institución Mam de Desarrollo Integral
Desiderio Martín Pablo
Todos Santos Cuchumatán 13015
Todos Santos Cuchumatán 13015
or e-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A local proposal for
Click here to view a proposal for creation of an ecotourism infrastructure in Todos Santos. If you can help support this project, please contact Juan Andres Martín Carrillo at:email@example.com
HispanoMaya - School of
Spanish and Mam
HispanoMaya, formed as a cooperative of 13 teachers, was founded on a principle of supporting education and development in the municipality of Todos Santos while contributing to the growing awareness of our students to the reality of life in rural Guatemala. We offer one-on-one classes of Spanish and Mam, taught 5 hours/day, Monday-Friday, which are supplemented by homestays with local families and extracurricular activities. These include: conferences concerning social/political/community themes, hikes, fieldtrips, movies, and dance lessons. Weaving lessons, which provide an opportunity to become more immersed in the culture here, can be arranged on an individual basis with a skilled Todosantera woman. Of course, we always try to respond to the interests of our students at a given time and students are welcome to request specific activities. Each week concludes with a special dinner in the school where all the teachers and students are able to unite informally, reflect on the experiences of the week, and simply enjoy the good company and relaxed atmosphere of Todos Santos.
Profits from the school help provide scholarships for local children.
For anyone with a desire to learn about the realities of this community as well as to participate in community-based projects, please contact us for more information on how to become involved. We offer opportunities for involvement in many different fields, including education (working at the local public schools), agriculture, medicine (working at the puesto de salud), and at the reforestation project.
The price for this experience: $130/week.
For more information contact: www.hispanomaya.org
Click on the links below to see scanned fabric samples
Brocade on a typical Todos Santos klobj (huipil)
Brocade on a young woman's klobj (huipil)
Men's shirt material
Men's wexj (pants) material
Men's pa' (crocheted carrying bag)
Purple general purpose cloth
Contrast between an older brocade style (left) and a newer style (right)
For a more enjoyable stay in Todos Santos for both you and your hosts, visitors are encouraged to learn some basic phrases in Mam. If you're interested in studying before you make a visit, there are now several excellent books available. One is the 1993 text published by the Proyecto Lingüístico Francisco Marroquín (P.L.F.M.) entitled Gramática del idioma mam. This is an especially useful resource since it includes many examples from Todos Santos. The P.L.F.M. also offers Mam classes at their school in Antigua if prior arrangements are made. The most comprehensive and authoritative resource on the language is the 1997 publication Ttxoolil Qyool Mam written by B'aayil (Eduardo Pérez) and Ajb'ee (Odilio Jiménez) and published by Cholsamaj. Both of these two textbooks and others on Mam are available through Yax Te' Foundation. You can study Mam at any of the three language schools in Todos Santos described above. You also can click here for a Word version of my own compilation of language notes on the Mam of Todos Santos which includes a small Mam-English dictionary. If you prefer, send a self addressed large envelope with sufficient postage for twenty-five (printed on both sides) 9 1/2" X 11" pages to:
Dept. of Modern Languages & Literatures
DeLand, FL 32723
There is also a great site on the Mam of San Marcos at: http://www.lrc.salemstate.edu/mam/index.htm.
Films on Todos Santos
Obtaining a regional map
A local proposal for creating an ecotourism infrastructure
Qo Aq'anan Junx te Qman Txun (a local community development proposal)
An article attempting to explain the April, 2000 killings
Maya Educational Foundation Support Mayan education
Maya Peoples in Guatemala and Mexico
Other Maya links
Yax Te' Foundation Mayan publications
LANIC (Latin American Network Information Center)
tey (Thank you)
Last updated August, 2009
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