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Meet Hilario

Hilario is building an environmental science curriculum in the Yucatec Maya language, giving Yucatecan children access to STEM in their ancestral language.

Since the 1990s, the Mexican constitution has recognized a right for citizens to receive primary education in their native language, an important phase in improving the conditions of the nation’s Indigenous communities. Unfortunately, due to a challenging combination of lack of support for training teachers and few economically lucrative opportunities involving Indigenous languages, the number of Mayan speakers continues to decline.

This is especially the case in the tourist-oriented economy of Quintana Roo, the home of language activist Hilario Poot Cahun. Focusing on Yucatec Mayan communities and working together with the Quintana Roo Educational Services (SEQ), the Intercultural Mayan University (UIMQROO), and Marine Conservation without Borders (MCB), he aims to bolster his language by designing a culturally relevant environmental science curriculum. The project involves two main phases. First, the team will devise the curriculum itself by incorporating local ecological wisdom and using Yucatec Mayan as the medium of transmission. Next, during the summer and fall terms of 2022, the team will work closely with teachers, students, and parents in five Indigenous Quintana Roo primary schools to collect data on the program’s effectiveness, ensuring a linguistic future for the next generations. Hilario is also collaborating with Florida International Uuiversity to develop testing protocols for these novel materials.

 You can download examples of these biocultural STEM curricula in various lanaguge combinations from the MCB free Digital Library. These materials are also being protected for the future in the MCB collection at the Archive on Indigenous Language of Latin America at UT, Austin.

Hilario's Background

Hilario Poot Cahun is a Maya linguist and educator. He has a B.A. in Language and Culture from Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo (UIMQROO), where he is also a professor and researcher at UIMQROO. His research is centered around Maya language documentation and revitalization. He is a board member and ethnotranslator for Marine Conservation without Borders (MCB). He serves as a primary school instructor at Secretaría de Educación de Quintana Roo (SEQ) teaching 4th - 6th grade in the Maya community of La Esperanza. In the summer of 2010 he participated in the seminar "Leadership of Indigenous youth" at the University of Arizona, USA. In July 2014 he took the workshop: "Documentation and Revitalization of Indigenous Languages" at the University of Texas Arlington, USA. In the fall of 2014, he carried out a research stay at the Center for Mayan Studies of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). 

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