Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship Program supports young Indigenous leaders between the ages of 18-25, who are eager to learn about technology, program development, journalism, community radio, media, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights advocacy. This is the fourth year of the Fellowship Program, which has awarded grants to 43 youth to date. The capacity of the fellows is built through training, community radio station exchanges, and conference attendance. This fellowship is an opportunity to assist fellows to represent the voices of their communities and bring awareness of local issues to global conversations through their proposed projects, all the while strengthening their cultural identities and leadership.
February 2022 is the second month in the International Decade of Indigenous Languages and we are excited to share some news about how our Youth Fellows are working to revitalize their languages. Its’atil magazine, a bilingual (Maya Yucatec-Spanish) community media project, was founded to address the lack of bilingual media in Maya communities in Mexico and is coordinated by Fellow Juan Camaal (Maya Yucatan) and Karen Castillo (Maya Yucatan). Their fellowship project consisted of designing and producing this digital magazine. The first two issues of the digital publications are available here: https://www.itsatil.com/. Juan and Karen are focused on presenting information in both Maya Yucatec and Spanish that supports land defense and strengthens Indigenous cultures, with articles ranging from topics about Maya cosmology to articles on critical and decolonizing thinking. They also carefully crafted the magazine to include poetry, literature, and Maya philosophy.
With a fist in air, the cover of the magazine entices the reader to explore its pages. Inside the first issue, you can find commemorative pieces like an in memoriam of assassinated Nahua leader, teacher, and communicator, Samir Flores; poetry lines written by youth leading the project; and informative articles on nutrition for kids. The second issue includes articles on Maya cultural traditions, like the U waajil kool, which is a ceremony of feeding cornfields in a symbolic thanksgiving ritual, as well as a piece on how the community of Tiholop, Yaxcaba in the Yucatan, processes deer meat.
In addition, they planned to reach youth via social media and share their struggles and information they produced with a wider audience outside of the Yucatan peninsula. Therefore they set up a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/itsatiloom. Their overall goal is to revitalize their language and Indigenous identity through this community media project.
They furthered their community media work by organizing a series of four communication workshops in two communities, Cisteil and San Demetrio Xpom. Both communities belong to the municipality of Yaxcaba in Yucatan and are deeply involved in the defense of ancestral lands and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. These communities do not have access to the internet and social media, hence the Its’atil youth brought their magazines to them physically. They hope to restore Indigenous languages through art, writing, and multimedia communication. Juan and Karen dream of becoming a bilingual media platform that supports and strengthens Indigenous cultures, cosmovisions, and raises awareness of the everyday struggles of Indigenous Peoples.