One of the activities that fifth and sixth grade students performed each year is working with the maguey, a native plant (in Mexico it is used to make mezcal) whose fibers have been used since ancient times for making fishing nets, networks to harvest avocados, bags and ropes for all kinds of uses.
In the gardens of Escuela Caracol we have maguey plants, so the children could enjoy the full process. First, they cut some leaves. An elder of San Pablo La Laguna, invited by teacher Nacho, visited us to show us how to extract the fiber using tools that have been used traditionally in this region.
After removing the fibers and drying in the sun, it’s time to make the ropes. We also have handmade wooden tools that serve this purpose, so that we can create our own maguey strings with the size and thickness we need.
Finally, each student weaves a maguey bag, a beautiful and rugged piece made respecting the tradition and knowledge of our ancestors.
History and culture, botany, manual labor and even mathematics (to keep track of crochet stitches, for example) unite during the process, all of them integrated into one activity, facilitating the assimilation of knowledge and awakening a natural curiosity in the students.
In addition, we show young people that traditional crafts are an option as valid as going to the university. This is especially important for them, because not everyone has the same academic concerns or see their future in the same way. Being a fisherman is as honorable as being a doctor.
Keeping alive the ancient Mayan culture is one of the great efforts that everyone in Escuela Caracol do every day. In these lands, many young people, ashamed of their roots, have rejected their own culture and put aside some of their traditions. The wounds of war persist. This has created in many cases family split. Our intercultural educational community is working with the purpose of uniting the ancient and the modern, for all that was, all that is and all that will be are all linked by an invisible thread.
These young people will someday leave these shores and explore distant worlds. They will do so with confidence, without being ashamed of who they are. They will take pride in their customs, their traditions, their costumes and their language, for they have sunk their roots in their Mayan cosmology, as they open their arms to a world that is awaiting them.