Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

Enterprise Awards 2014

International Impact

two Maya people

Maya Project – championing a 21st century culture

Loughborough academics
Inês Varela-Silva, Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences
Colleagues from a variety of academic disciplines as well as the Centre for Faith and Spirituality
External partners
A range of organisations from Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, the USA and the UK

The Maya are the largest living group of Native Americans, with at least 7 million people dispersed across Belize, Guatemala and Mexico as well as elsewhere around the globe.

Their current situation bears little resemblance to their ancient origins. Their ancestors – highly skilled in architecture, astrology and mathematics – once dominated large areas of the Americas. Now, the majority of Maya are “invisible” to the world because they are poor and usually employed in badly paid jobs that no one else will do.

Research led by Loughborough academics has reached some harsh conclusions about the many factors affecting this group,  such as poverty, discrimination, social exclusion, poor health and vry limited access to education, 

In an effort to improve the Maya living conditions and quality of life whilst preserving their ancient culture, the research team is using some innovative and far-reaching methods to disseminate its findings alongside the traditional route of academic journals. During the past 12 months, a series of multimedia exhibitions, workshops and public lectures have engaged the public in general and school children in particular across Europe, Mexico and the USA. 

In February 2014, the Maya Project researchers used Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform - to raise money to produce an e-book about the Maya. This goal was achieved. and the funding secured. The book tells the story of the contemporary Maya people through photography, paintings, films, music and words – most the artwork is authored by several Maya artists. Readers can simply enjoy the artworks or move beyond the book’s first level to explore more detailed research findings.

 Simultaneously, a printed book published by the University’s Lamplight Press is set to be launched  later this year.

The use of far-reaching popular methods to raise awareness of the plight of modern Maya, is taking key research findings beyond the academic into the public domain.


  • One of the project’s research papers – focusing on the diet and health of Maya people – received the second prize in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health’s Best Paper Award 2014
  • During the past 12 months, a series of exhibitions, workshops and lectures have engaged the public across Europe and America.
  • The conferences associated with the Maya Exhibition bear credits for the postgraduate and undergraduate Anthropology and Nutrition curriculum; and are also part of exam materials. 
  • Kickstarter funding for the e-book project was secured in February 2014
  • Publication of The Maya: A Living Culture in the 21st Century – by the University’s Lamplight Press – is scheduled for 2014
  • The project’s findings are applicable to vulnerable populations throughout the world.

Frame from video Play video Maya e-book on Kickstarter

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