17 Jul 2014
Book launch for The Maya Project
The unique life and culture of the 21st Century Maya population of Mexico is revealed in a new book by Dr Ines Varela-Silva from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.
The book is the first printed production of The Maya Project, which blends art and academic research to portray the biosocial realities of the Maya in Mesoamerica. The Maya Project team has been conducting research for over 10 years aiming to raise awareness about the Maya people and to help improve their living conditions.
The Maya are the largest living group of Native Americans, with 6-7 million members dispersed across what is now Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize. Their present situation bears little resemblance to their ancient origins when their ancestors, highly skilled in mathematics, architecture and astrology, dominated large areas of the Americas.
During 2012 popular interest in the Maya increased largely as the result of a prophecy, falsely interpreted, claiming that cataclysmic events would occur as a consequence of the end of a cycle within the Maya Long Count calendar. However, in reality, most people do not know who the current Maya are. Many even think that the Maya are extinct.
Printed in both English and Spanish, the book, focuses on the Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula and most of the artwork included in the book has been donated by photographers and artists of this region.
The book launch, supported through the Health and Wellbeing Research Challenge, took place on the University campus at the Library yesterday (Wednesday 16 July). It was attended by over 60 guests, including the Mayor of Charnwood, Councillor Paul Day, Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Morag Bell, members of the research team and other guests. There was an exhibition of photographs and artefacts gathered during the research.
Publication of the book has been undertaken by Lamplight Press, a publishing company based on the University campus that is run by students who specialise in Publishing, English, Creative Writing, Illustration and Art. The Lamplight Press is supported by the University's Enterprise Projects Group.
Dr Varela-Silva comments: “My team and I have undertaken many trips to Mexico to understand the lives of the Maya. This book is an exciting insight into their world. We hope in the near future to be able to expand our collection of artwork and research to other countries where Maya communities live such as Guatemala and Belize.”
The research underpinning the book was part-supported by a Mobility Scholarship, with funding donated to the University by Santander Universities.