First Mayan Language Soap Opera Premieres in August in Mexico

The very first soap opera in the Mayan language will premiere next month in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. “Baktun” is a pioneer in the television industry, being the first Mayan speaking show of its kind. “Baktun” is intended to boost the presence of the language of the Mayan culture in mass media so that it remains relevant and does not fall into disuse and eventually extinction.

The state television network will air this landmark TV series. The telenovela already premiered in June at the Museo de Antropología of Mexico. It is expected to hit YouTube as soon as it begins airing. “Baktun” might also possibly air in Bolivia and Peru.

Making television history

For the first time, the indigenous Mayan population in southeast Mexico will have their own television series. “Baktun” is slated for 21 episodes with Mayan actors acting and speaking entirely in their native language. Even before its launching, it is being touted as a great means of promoting and preserving the ancient language of the Maya. The makers of the series explained that the show hopes to “empower the use of the Mayan tongue.” The dialogue will be presented with Spanish captions.

Maximizing local resources

“Baktun” is directed by Bruno Cárcamo. The documentary filmmaker is also a producer of the show. Cárcamo said that “Baktun” was filmed in Quintana Roo where Maya-speaking towns are located. He pertains to the series as both a soap opera and a feature film. Real homes were used during production and so people watching get the chance to see firsthand how modern-day Mayans in the Yucatan live their lives.

The groundbreaking soap opera is mostly a dramatization of the problems encountered by the Mayan people now living in the Yucatan peninsula. “Baktun is a classic television soap opera with an exciting and complicated love triangle, in this case a two brothers fighting for the love of one woman.

Keeping the mother tongue alive

Cárcamo argues that if the Mayan communities have their own soap opera, they will be more encouraged to speak in their mother tongue. It is well known that Mayan communities love to watch soap operas in the afternoon. For two hours, the streets are emptied as people stay inside glued to TV screens showing Spanish soap operas. Afterwards, they spend a lot of time talking about their favorite programs in Spanish. If they do this using their own language then the risk that the Mayan language and culture will fade into obscurity is lessened.

To the rescue of the Mayan tongue

The current estimate of indigenous Mayans in who currently speak the Mayan language is 6 million people. Around 750, 000 people speak the Mayan language in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Mayan speakers also use Spanish and daily life and both are learned in childhood and spoken at home. The Mayan languages are a family of Mesoamerican Indian languages that are still spoken not only in Mexico but also in Belize and Guatemala. There are about 31 dialects still spoken today. There was a time when Mayan languages were spoken in Honduras and El Salvador.

Photo Credit: Mayan chief forbidding another person to touch a container of chocolate.

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