Ch'ol Maya: cook

Esmeralda is a Ch'ol Maya. Her father is Tzetzal and her mother is Ch'ol. Her older sister speaks both parents' languages but she only learnt her mother's language. She speaks Spanish as well like a lot of indigenous people do (but not all). Her school did not teach her in Ch’ol; she learnt it at home. Ch’ol is closely related to Ch'orti', which is spoken in Guatemala and Honduras, and to Chontal Maya, spoken in Tabasco in Mexico. These languages are the most conservative of Maya languages, and are thought to be the closest to Classical Maya.

She looks young for a 29-year-old mum of two children. She lives in a jungle village, an hour's drive from the restaurant La Cabaña where she works. The restaurant is in The Blue Mountain Biosphere Reserve, in the Lacandón jungle. Her father drives her to work on Monday morning and brings her back home on Sunday to be with her children. Her parents look after her children in the meantime. What sacrifices. We stopped here for a cup of coffee on our way to Bonampak. First she was shy and then she opened to us. She told us she was lucky to find work and her boss only required that she learnt fast. Her duties are in the kitchen and we admired her traditional cooking on an open fire, frying the chili and garlic first, before putting them into a casserole. Like all her folks, she is not rich but she certainly had a smile on her face, despite her shyness.

Esmeralda’s cooking.

Esmeralda’s cooking.

View of the Blue Mountains from the restaurant.

View of the Blue Mountains from the restaurant.


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Rhodri JonesComment