Cultural Story Hour: Learning Local Lore from Chajul Elders
Every week, in the Saber Sin Límites Community Library, the librarians read books to the children during Story Hour. The books are usually in Spanish, though the librarians also translate into Ixil as they read. Needless to say, these stories usually represent cultures very foreign to the children of Chajul.
We believe that exposure to new ideas and the Spanish language is beneficial for children. However, we also recognize the increasing loss of cultural knowledge and traditions in Chajul and the great potential to create a space in the library where children learn stories, history, and values from their own rich Ixil Maya culture. Thus Cultural Story Hour was born.
Once a month, the Saber Sin Límites Community Library invites a village elder to come speak to the children on themes like the Maya diaspora, Chajul’s legendary mountain hermit, and Ixil spirituality. Just as with many cultures that share oral traditions, stories diverge. In our last Cultural Story Hour, the village elder explained to the children the difference between the legend of Chajul’s founding, and the more factual history of Chajul’s founding — from the migration of the Maya people in Huehuetenango to settle in the Ixil region, to the construction of the Catholic church and the town square by the Spaniard settlers.
The children are not only gaining knowledge, they are learning to respect their elders, think critically about fact and fiction, and value their roots. The stories and cultural knowledge can help foster a stronger sense of identity, bind communities together, and prepare the children to be proud citizens and leaders of Chajul.