The Maya as an heirloom culture – Riviera Maya lessons

the maya as an heirloom culture


In our continued amazement for Mexico, it dawned on us that the Maya are an heirloom culture that continues to preserve and honor its lifestyle and cultural traditions, with determination and loyalty. As America trends towards the vintage, the DIY and eco-design culture, some people are recognizing the deep roots of the Maya lifestyle, an heirloom culture that preserves and honors its unique traditions.

Understanding Heirloom and how it relates to culture, not a tomato

Thank goodness this is published on a Wednesday and not a Monday morning, as the topic may seem a bit heavy. But this is a fascinating understanding of the Mayan culture and way of thinking that has gone unnoticed in the last few decades. Life is cyclical and North Americans are seeing the value in traditional ways of living and existing. Mexico as a country and the Maya have never left its traditions behind. After much scrutiny and accusations of a non-progressive culture, it seems (cough) that this way of living is now honored not balked at….

The term Heirloom has been used in the last decade to describe vegetables and grains as sustainability becomes forefront to our daily lives. Ancient seeds that have not been manipulated are being planted so we maintain an agricultural history and maintain the basic nutrients in our grains and produce. As genetic engineering increases, there are many farmers who wish to forgo the stated benefits of genetically modified produce and use ‘antique’ seeds that are unmodified as their primary seed. The ramifications may be less crop yield, which translates into higher prices but the use of original seeds is working!

Heirloom culture is a culture that maintains traditions and designs in their architecture, culture, recipes, clothing and more. Each area, each tradition, is recognized for its story, its value and its quality. An heirloom culture is a culture that maintains and repairs, it is not a culture that creates to throw away. It is a culture that treasures the stories attached to actions, articles and customs with the intention to preserve and not throw away. It is a culture that produces for direct purpose not just to have, more stuff!

These traditions and this mindset can only be witnessed and experienced once you set foot in the Maya culture. The ingenuity and ability to see many different uses for what the North American culture would consider ‘garbage’ or non-useful items will boggle your mind. The perceived bareness where only purposeful items are stocked, used and accumulated, seems simplistic. It was not until I was invited to Mexican friends houses, Maya villages, intergenerational homes or conducted a renovation or really sat at a taqueria and looked at how the kitchen functioned that I understood this ingenuity.

Mexico and the Maya community maintains and repairs, it does not throw away!

In North America an empty coke bottle goes directly to the recycling bin. In the Maya community, sn empty plastic coke bottle finds a new life as a planter then turns into a cup measure then a paint can and then a scoop for detergent. A set of floor tiles having to be uprooted from a floor, turns into a mosaic table top, then a cutting board and finally a floor mat. A fallen tree turns into a bee hive, then a table and finally a chair. Concrete rubble from a demolished building fills potholes in the street or provides fill that supports a the foundation of a building. The list goes on and on.

As a culture, the Maya is a storytelling culture. Clothes, recipes, designs, and architecture have a story passed down from generation to generation. Families live in the same houses has previous generations and on the same land. Sewing techniques, recipes and more are passed down from generation to generation without the need to update these daily chores.

Items are fixed or repurposed they are not thrown away.

Day to day items are built to last, not to be thrown away. There is a wealth of businesses like shoe makers, tailors and technicians that repair again and again shoes, boots, roofs, clothes and more. The ability to repair and maintain will blow your mind. It is what keeps the economy going and people employed. It is what defines Mexico as country and the Maya as a culture, making this a proud nation.

Understanding this way of living puts a very different perspective on the live and living of the Maya. This is what we have seen for a years, a self-sufficient, sustainable community that concentrates more on daily living and happiness than striving for the next best thing. There is an appreciation for what is not what can be.

We could learn a lot from this daily way of life, something that we can say we have and will continue to do. Do we like that fact that we can pinpoint and define what we love about the Riviera Maya so much and that deep down the art of maintenance and repair has taught us valuable lessons. Heck ya!

Just a story about why we love where we live and continue to investigate our area more and more!






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