Juan Jesús, Morelia and Carol-Rose on “La voz de nuestras raíces”

On June 13th, 2019, Dr. Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez (CIMSUR) and Carol-Rose Little (Cornell) were invited to appear on the Canal 10 Chiapas show “La voz de nuestras raíces” [the voice of our roots], hosted by Freddy López Vázquez (advisor to the Minister of Sustainable Development of Indigenous Peoples in Chiapas). There, Juan Jesús talked about how he became a linguist and the importance of continuing to speak and write in Ch’ol. Carol-Rose talked about her work with the Ch’ol language and how she became involved with the Ch’ol communities in Chiapas.


Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez, Freddy Vázquez López, Carol-Rose Little, Miguel “Sebsor” (Tseltal rapper)

On July 18th, 2019, Morelia Vázquez Martínez was also an honorary guest on “La voz de nuestras raíces”. During her interview she discussed her work on linguistic projects, starting in 2015. When asked about advice for preserving Ch’ol, she emphasized the importance of teaching Ch’ol speakers how to write in their language.


Morelia Vázquez Martínez and Freddy López Vázquez during the taping of “La voz de nuestras raíces”

“La voz de nuestras raíces” is a TV program on Canal 10 Chiapas which airs in various languages of Chiapas. The Ch’ol version airs live every Thursday at 3pm.

Ch’ol corpus now available on AILLA

The Ch’ol language corpus created as part of the National Geographic-funded project in 2018 is now available online at the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA). The collection can be viewed here: https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:261383.

The corpus contains nearly 40 hours of audio recordings, in addition to videos, transcriptions, translations, and photos, and was created with the help of a team of Ch’ol-speaking students, led by project directors Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez and Jessica Coon, with local coordinators Nicolás Arcos López and Bernabé Vázquez Sánchez.

Workshops in Tumbalá and San Miguel

In June and July, we organized two workshops, one in Tumbalá and the other in San Miguel. In Tumbalá, the workshop was on the language and culture of the Mayan people, with a special focus on Ch’ol (June 20th). The organizers were Carol-Rose Little (Cornell University), Esteban Mirón (Berkeley) Morelia Vázquez Martínez (ITSM), and Silvestre Gómez Jiménez (CELALI). The workshop took place in the Tumbalá cultural center, whose director is Juana Karen Peñate Montejo. Members of the cultural center, including students and teachers, attended the workshop. Esteban talked about the archaeology of the Maya people of Palenque. Carol-Rose and Morelia presented on what linguists do as well as the importance of preserving languages. Silvestre ended with some advice on how to continue preserving the Ch’ol language. At the end of the workshop, participants ate tamales prepared locally and listened to some marimba music. This workshop was possible thanks to funding from Engaged Cornell and Berkeley.

On July 4th and July 5th, Morelia and Carol-Rose gave two Ch’ol writing workshops in the local secondary school in San Miguel. This workshop was attended by 120 students. On the first day, they went over the Ch’ol alphabet, paying special attention to how to write glottalized consonants (C’) and the sixth vowel in Ch’ol (ä). On the second day, students had a spelling quiz and then wrote down their own stories about daily life, which they then shared with the class. This workshop was possible thanks to funding from Engaged Cornell.

ELAN workshop in CELALI

On January 7th, 2019, Morelia Vázquez Martínez led a workshop on how to use ELAN, a transcription program for linguists. Participants were CELALI employees who work with various languages of Chiapas. This program helps users transcribe and translate audio and video. This workshop was funded through an Engaged Opportunity grant from Engaged Cornell.

Morelia Vazquez Martinez

Morelia showing participants how to use ELAN

Me, José Armando

Hey there! My name’s José Armando. I grew up in Tijuana, Baja California. I am about to start graduate school at the University of California, San Diego. I just finished my undergraduate degree at Cornell University, majoring in linguistics and anthropology. It was far from where I’m from and quite cold! In any case, I will now start my PhD program in linguistics in San Diego – much closer to my family in Tijuana.


Me in San Miguel. I have to climb quite some stones to get to where the house is.

I first visited San Miguel and El Campanario, Chiapas in January 2018 to learn Ch’ol. I was tagging along with my mentor Carol-Rose Little. It was amazing! I thank wholeheartedly Morelia Vázquez Martínez, Nicolás Arcos Lopez, and their families for everything they have done. I visited them again this past August on the way to a conference in Guatemala called FAMLi5. I cannot wait to go visit them again.

I wish to continue to study Ch’ol because there is a lot in the language that I don’t know. It is a beautiful language. I also study Ja’a Kumiai, another native language spoken in Baja California, Mexico. My grandparents spoke Otomí, so the native languages of Mexico are dear to my heart.


Inside the kitchen in a house in San Miguel. Gotta love beans and eggs! They’re healthy, too!

Workshop: Lakty’añ ch’ol en la era de la tecnología

On August 3rd, 2018, bilingual Ch’ol-Spanish students and teachers from UNICH met at the Casa de la Cultura, Salto de Agua, Chiapas for a workshop on tools for documenting and preserving Ch’ol. Here is a video in Ch’ol with clips from the workshop.

This workshop was organized by Carol-Rose Little (Cornell University) and Silvestre Gómez Jiménez (CELALI). Funding thanks to Engaged Cornell. The invited speakers were Nicolás Arcos López (UIET) and Morelia Vázquez Martínez (ITSM).

Workshop 2: ELAN transcription

Members of the Ch’ol documentation project convened June 7th and 8th at CIESAS-Sureste in San Cristóbal de las Casas for a workshop focused on file management and transcription, organized by Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez and Jessica Coon, and with ELAN and audio file editing tutorials by Justin Royer and Sandra Cruz Gómez.

the group at work transcribing

Groups traveled from Oxolotán Tabasco (led by Nicolás Arcos López) and Yajalón, Chiapas (led by Bernabé Vázquez Sánchez). Altogether, they had collected more than 30 hours of Ch’ol recordings during the first phase of the project. During phase 2, they will select their favorite narratives to transcribe and translate. At the end, all materials will be uploaded to the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA).

Workshop 2 participants, back row: Bernabé Vázquez Sánchez, Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez, Sandra Cruz Gómez, Nicolás Arcos López, Félix López López, Jessica Coon, Justin Royer, Morelia Vázquez Martínez Front row: Patricia López Vázquez, Nilda Gúzman López, Lourdes Méndez Sánchez, Matilde Vázquez Vázquez

The secrets for scaring away the x-wäläk ok

María de Jesús Martínez Pérez and Adelaida López Gutiérrez. BA in Lengua y Cultura, 6th semester, Oxolotán, Tabasco.

It is said that the secret to scare away the x-wäläk ok (trickster elf) are: holy water, a liter of trago or tequila, playing cards, dice, marbles and a mirror. Once you have all these things, at midnight you have to go out and wait for the x-wäläk ok. In order to understand the ways of the x-wäläk ok you have to spend some time with him and play with him for a while and you also have to take the liquor with you so you can get him drunk.

Once drunk, the x-wäläk ok will start to cry like a child, and once he has lost consciousness,  you have to give him a good lashing so he won’t bother you again. Then you say three Hail Marys, three Our Fathers, and a Psalm 91, and this is how you ensure that the x-wäläk ok will not bother you again.

Consultant: Rosa del Carmen García García, 36 years old from Nueva Reforma, Municipality of Tacotalpa, Tabasco.

Another one of the secrets to free yourself from the x-wäläk ok is to weave two leaves of palm trees together and then throw them behind you in the path while you’re walking so that the x-wäläk ok will get distracted and then you can find the path again.

Consultant: Eliseo Martínez Pérez, 42 years old, from the community of Campamento Mirador, Municipality of Sabanilla, Chiapas.

Another trick is that you take a shit in the middle of the woods or in whatever place where you are, and then the x-wäläk ok take the shit it in his hands and he’ll start to smear it on his head and use it to comb his hair. You’ll distract him this way, because the x-wäläk ok will think it is perfume because he doesn’t know what it is. Then while he is distracted, you can go and look for the path and you can manage to get away.

Another one of the secrets is that you have to turn around everything you wear and you have to put it on backwards: shoes, clothes, hat, backpack. You have to put everything backwards so you can go out.

Consultant: Eliseo Martínez Pérez, 42 years old, from the community of Campamento Mirador, Municipality of Sabanilla, Chiapas.

Another one of the secrets to keep the x-wäläk ok from bothering you is that you have to do the special rites that our grandparents believed in. You have to burn candles and you have to offer some sacrifices in order to calm down his anger. If you are going out to hunt any animals you have to make sure that the animal that you are hunting is for your own subsistence, so that your children can eat, and this way the x-wäläk ok will stay calm. But if you just kill animals for killing and leave them lying there, that is where the x-wäläk ok will intervene to play with your thoughts and to get you lost, to punish you, so that you learn the lesson that everything in the woods has a lord.