When Sara Zapata Mijares realized her fellow Yucatecan community in Los Angeles lacked a voice, she decided to start the Mundo Maya Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving Mayan culture in Los Angeles. The organization promotes the gastronomy, technological advances, and ancestral traditions of the Mayan culture across Mesoamerica.
One of the ways they do so is through their annual Mundo Maya festival on the second Sunday of August which has been designated as the day of the Mayan world. Held at MacArthur Park’s Levitt Pavilion, the festival represents cultural traditions from Mexico’s Mayan states like Yucatan and Quintana Roo as well as Central American countries like Guatemala. During the event, other indigenous communities from Mexico and the United States are invited to participate in ceremonies and drum circles. There’s folkloric dance performances from Chiapas, Yucatecan cuisine, artisanal goods for sale, and Mesoamerican ballgame matches.
The purpose of the event is to instill pride in the Mayan community of Los Angeles by showcasing the multiplicity and complexity of the Mayan culture. In addition, there are information booths to provide the community with key services from healthcare and education to passport support and 2020 census information.
Mijares understands that the community is living in a state of fear due to our political climate and wants to encourage her fellow community members to have a voice and exercise their rights. For her, the festival goes beyond entertainment, it’s a crucial way to connect with the Mayan diaspora and encourage them to be active participants in their communities.
“It’s important for them to participate in the system, because only by having a voice can we be empowered and ensure our rights are respected,” Mijares explains. “We are a treasure. A global treasure.”
We have a global culture. We have a culture that is inclusive and pre-Hispanic. A culture inherited from our ancestors.